BEETHOVEN Five Variations on “Rule Britannia” in D Major
At the beginning of the 19th century, the British were second only to the Viennese as fans of Beethoven’s music. The composer returned the compliment in this short set of bravura variations on the popular patriotic air “Rule Britannia.”
JOHN ADAMS I Still Play
John Adams describes this beguiling miniature as a set of variations on a “generating harmonic progression.” It honors the former president of Nonesuch Records, the adventurous label with which both Adams and Jeremy Denk have been prominently associated.
BIZET Variations chromatiques
Although Bizet’s piano music is less well known than his operas, it draws on the same well of lyricism and drama. Composed in 1868, the Variations chromatiques harks back to Beethoven’s 32 Variations in C Minor of 1806, which Bizet—himself a virtuoso pianist—had under his fingers.
MENDELSSOHN Variations sérieuses
Mendelssohn hesitated before accepting a commission for an homage to Beethoven in 1841, but his fear that his music wouldn’t measure up to Beethoven’s was unfounded: The Variations sérieuses is widely considered a masterpiece on the order of the Diabelli Variations.
BEETHOVEN An die ferne Geliebte (transcr. Liszt)
Beethoven serenaded his anonymous “Immortal Beloved” in this appealing song cycle, the title of which translates as To the Distant Beloved. Liszt’s transcription for solo piano preserves the intimate tone and folk-like simplicity of the original.
SCHUMANN Fantasy in C Major, Op. 17
Like most of Schumann’s solo piano works of the 1830s, the C-Major Fantasy was a musical valentine to his future bride, Clara Wieck. It blends the personalities of the composer’s fictitious alter egos: the stormy Florestan and the dreamy Eusebius.