Schubert’s variation theme is a march whose salient features are an unexpected turn to C minor at the end of its first half, and the canonic imitation of the melodic line at the start of the second half. Both these characteristics leave a mark on the eight variations that follow. The third of them transforms the theme’s march rhythm into Schubert’s favoured dactylic pattern (one long note followed by two short), with the melody given out in contrapuntal dialogue by the primo player, while the secondo has a pulsating inner voice and a delicate pizzicato bass-line. The same rhythm pervades Variation 5—a melancholy and deeply expressive piece in the minor (the turn to the minor at the close of the original theme’s first half is now replaced with a corresponding change to the major); but even more haunting is the penultimate variation, whose chromatic harmonies convey an infinite sense of longing. This time the music turns not to C minor at the end of the first half, but to C major, in a passionate outburst of overwhelming effect. The extended final variation brings with it a change in metre that allows the work to come to a brilliant conclusion.
from notes by Misha Donat © 2010