Listening to Beethoven #92 – 9 variations on ‘Quant’e piu bello’

The young Ludwig van Beethoven (left) and Giovanni Paisiello

9 variations on ‘Quant’e piu bello’ WoO 69 for piano (1795, Beethoven aged 24)

Dedication not known
Duration 12′

Listen

What’s the theme like?

The theme is relatively simple but attractive, and a little playful towards the end.

Background and Critical Reception

This is another set of variations from Beethoven using a contemporary source for the theme. In this case it is an aria, Quant’e piu bello (How much more beautiful) from Paisiello’s opera L’amor contrastato (Doubtful Love). It is a bright theme in the key of A major.

Thoughts

These variations trip along very naturally, with more than a hint of play in each. Beethoven creates an illusion of the fingers of the right hand falling over each other in the first variation, but cannot resist the temptation to open up the accelerator for the second!

The fourth variation takes a serious countenance and moves to the minor key, but no sooner has it done that then the smile is back and the music is tripping along.

Recordings used and Spotify links

Cécile Ousset (Eloquence)

Rudolf Buchbinder (Warner Classics)

Ronald Brautigam (BIS)

Three excellent versions. Ousset’s recordings of Beethoven variations are some of her finest achievements, and her poise here is enviable. Ronald Brautigam offers a direct contrast on the fortepiano, though he suffers a little from a very roomy acoustic.

Also written in 1795 Hummel Piano Sonata no.8

Next up 6 Variations on ”Nel cor piu non mi sento”

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