Variation and Variation Forms
Variation is a formal technique where material is repeated in an altered form. The changes may involve harmony, melody, counterpoint, rhythm, timbre, orchestration or any combination of these. The variant is found both as a technique, and as form.
Variation forms include ground bass, passacaglia, chaconne, and theme and variations. Ground bass, passacaglia and chaconne are typically based on brief ostinato motifs providing a repetitive harmonic basis and are also typically continuous evolving structures. 'Theme and variation' forms are however based specifically on melodic variation, in which the fundamental musical idea, or theme, is repeated in altered form or accompanied in a different manner. 'Theme and variation' structure generally begins with a theme (which is itself sometimes preceded by an introduction), typically between eight and thirty-
Variation forms can be written as 'free-
Although the first isolated example emerged in the 14th century, works in theme-
Keyboard works in variation form were written by a number of 16th-
In the Classical era, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote a great number of variations, such as the first movement of his Piano Sonata in A, K. 331, or the finale of his Clarinet Quintet, K 581. Joseph Haydn specialized in sets of double variations, in which two related themes, usually minor and major, are presented and then varied in alternation; outstanding examples are the second movement of his Symphony No. 103, the Drumroll, and the Variations in F minor for piano, H XVII-
Ludwig van Beethoven wrote many variation sets in his career. Some were independent sets, for instance the Diabelli Variations, Op. 120. Others form single movements or parts of movements in larger works, such as first movement of the Piano Sonata No. 12, Op. 26, or the variations in the final movement of the Third Symphony (Eroica). Variation sets also occur in several of his late works, such as the slow movement of his String Quartet No. 12, Op. 127, the second movement of his final Piano Sonata No. 32, Op. 111, and the slow movement of the Ninth Symphony.
Schubert, Chopin, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Schoenberg, Stravinsky also composed variations.
J.S. Bach -