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Variations on a theme of Corelli, Op 42

composer
June 1931; based on the La Folia theme

 
The Variations on a theme of Corelli were completed in June 1931, during one of Rachmaninov’s European summer breaks. For this, the only work for solo piano he composed after leaving Russia in 1917, he chose the old dance melody known as ‘La Folia’—not actually composed by Corelli, but used by him in his Violin Sonata No 12. Apart from most likely prompting the Sonata revision, the 'Corelli Variations' seem to have been a catalyst for his next new work, the Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini for piano and orchestra. Not only is the Rhapsody also in the form of variations, but there are several clear premonitions of its ideas in the Corelli set.

Not entirely convinced of the success of the 'Corelli Variations', Rachmaninov generally omitted some of the twenty variations in performance. In three instances (Nos 11, 12 and 19) he even allowed that option in the score. He explained himself drily in a letter to Medtner of 21 December 1931: ‘I was guided by the coughing of the audience. Whenever the coughing increased, I would skip the next variation. Whenever there was no coughing, I would play them in proper order.’ In fact the design works perfectly well without such surgery, the variations grouping themselves into a quasi-four-movement sonata, in which the ‘slow movement’ begins in the major mode after a cadenza-like ‘Intermezzo’.

from notes by David Fanning © 2014

Rachmaninov termina les Variations sur un thème de Corelli en juin 1931, lors d’une pause estivale en Europe. Pour cette pièce, la seule qu’il ait écrite pour piano solo après son départ de Russie en 1917, il choisit le vieil air de danse appelé «La Folia»—que Corelli utilisa dans sa Sonate pour violon nº 12, sans pour autant en être l’auteur. Outre qu’elles furent très certainement à l’origine de la révision de la Sonate, ces variations semblent avoir joué un rôle de catalyseur pour la Rhapsodie sur un thème de Paganini pour piano et orchestre, l’œuvre en forme de variations que Rachmaninov composa juste après et dont plusieurs idées sont clairement préfigurées dans le corpus de Corelli.

Pas totalement convaincu du succès de ses vingt Variations sur un thème de Corelli, Rachmaninov en omettait généralement certaines quand il les jouait. Pour trois d’entre elles (les nos 11, 12 et 19), il permit même cette option sur la partition. Il s’en expliqua sèchement dans une lettre adressée à Medtner le 21 décembre 1931: «J’ai été guidé par la toux du public. Dès qu’elle forcissait, je sautais à la variation suivante. Dès qu’il n’y en avait pas, je les jouais dans le bon ordre.» En fait, tout fonctionne parfaitement bien sans de telles manœuvres: les variations forment une quasi-sonate en quatre mouvements, le «mouvement lent» démarrant en majeur après un «Intermezzo» façon cadence.

extrait des notes rédigées par David Fanning © 2014
Français: Hypérion

Für die Variationen über ein Thema von Corelli, die im Juni 1931 während eines Sommerurlaubs in Europa fertiggestellt wurden, das einzige Werk für Klavier solo, das er nach seinem Abschied von Russland im Jahre 1917 komponierte, wählte Rachmaninow die alte Tanzmelodie, die als „La Folia“ bekannt ist—sie stammt nicht von Corelli selbst, wurde aber von ihm in seiner Violinsonate Nr. 12 verarbeitet. Diese „Corelli-Variationen“ lieferten höchstwahrscheinlich nicht nur den Anstoß zur Sonaten-Revision, sondern waren offenbar ebenfalls der Auslöser für sein nächstes Werk, die Rhapsodie über ein Thema von Paganini für Klavier und Orchester. Die Rhapsodie ist ebenfalls ein Variationenzyklus und es gibt offenbare Bezugspunkte zu den „Corelli-Variationen“.

Rachmaninow war von dem Erfolg der „Corelli-Variationen“ nicht völlig überzeugt und ließ in Konzerten von den insgesamt zwanzig Variationen oft einige aus. Bei drei Stücken (Nr. 11, 12 und 19) hielt er diese Option sogar im Notentext fest. In einem Brief vom 21. Dezember 1931 an Medtner erklärte er trocken: „Ich ließ mich von dem Husten im Publikum leiten. Immer wenn das Husten mehr wurde, ließ ich die nächste Variation aus. Wenn nicht gehustet wurde, spielte ich sie in der rechten Reihenfolge.“ Tatsächlich lässt sich das Werk auch ohne derartige Operationen sehr gut ausführen—die Variationen fallen sozusagen in eine viersätzige Sonatenform, wobei nach einem kadenzartigen „Intermezzo“ der „langsame Satz“ in Dur beginnt.

aus dem Begleittext von David Fanning © 2014
Deutsch: Viola Scheffel

Recordings

Rachmaninov: The Complete Solo Piano Music
CDS44041/8Boxed set (at a special price) — Download only
Medtner & Rachmaninov: Piano Sonatas
Studio Master: CDA67936Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Rachmaninov: Variations
CDA66009Archive Service

Details

Track 7 on CDA67936 [17'48]
Track 2 on CDA66009 [18'30] Archive Service
No 01. Theme in D minor: Andante
Track 24 on CDS44041/8 CD7 [0'54] Boxed set (at a special price) — Download only
No 02. Variation 1 in D minor: Poco più mosso
Track 25 on CDS44041/8 CD7 [0'39] Boxed set (at a special price) — Download only
No 03. Variation 2 in D minor: L'istesso tempo
Track 26 on CDS44041/8 CD7 [0'35] Boxed set (at a special price) — Download only
No 04. Variation 3 in D minor: Tempo di minuetto
Track 27 on CDS44041/8 CD7 [0'31] Boxed set (at a special price) — Download only
No 05. Variation 4 in D minor: Andante
Track 28 on CDS44041/8 CD7 [1'09] Boxed set (at a special price) — Download only
No 06. Variation 5 in D minor: Allegro, ma non tanto
Track 29 on CDS44041/8 CD7 [0'20] Boxed set (at a special price) — Download only
No 07. Variation 6 in D minor: L'istesso tempo
Track 30 on CDS44041/8 CD7 [0'20] Boxed set (at a special price) — Download only
No 08. Variation 7 in D minor: Vivace
Track 31 on CDS44041/8 CD7 [0'31] Boxed set (at a special price) — Download only
No 09. Variation 8 in D minor: Adagio misterioso
Track 32 on CDS44041/8 CD7 [1'35] Boxed set (at a special price) — Download only
No 10. Variation 9 in D minor: Un poco più mosso
Track 33 on CDS44041/8 CD7 [1'04] Boxed set (at a special price) — Download only
No 11. Variation 10 in D minor: Allegro scherzando
Track 34 on CDS44041/8 CD7 [0'35] Boxed set (at a special price) — Download only
No 12. Variation 11 in D minor: Allegro vivace
Track 35 on CDS44041/8 CD7 [0'20] Boxed set (at a special price) — Download only
No 13. Variation 12 in D minor: L'istesso tempo
Track 36 on CDS44041/8 CD7 [0'35] Boxed set (at a special price) — Download only
No 14. Variation 13 in D minor: Agitato
Track 37 on CDS44041/8 CD7 [0'34] Boxed set (at a special price) — Download only
No 15. Interlude: Intermezzo
Track 38 on CDS44041/8 CD7 [1'09] Boxed set (at a special price) — Download only
No 16. Variation 14 in D flat major: Andante, con prima
Track 39 on CDS44041/8 CD7 [1'02] Boxed set (at a special price) — Download only
No 17. Variation 15 in D flat major: L'istesso tempo
Track 40 on CDS44041/8 CD7 [1'31] Boxed set (at a special price) — Download only
No 18. Variation 16 in D minor: Allegro vivace
Track 41 on CDS44041/8 CD7 [0'29] Boxed set (at a special price) — Download only
No 19. Variation 17 in D minor: Meno mosso
Track 42 on CDS44041/8 CD7 [1'01] Boxed set (at a special price) — Download only
No 20. Variation 18 in D minor: Allegro con brio
Track 43 on CDS44041/8 CD7 [0'31] Boxed set (at a special price) — Download only
No 21. Variation 19 in D minor: Più mosso – Agitato
Track 44 on CDS44041/8 CD7 [0'27] Boxed set (at a special price) — Download only
No 22. Variation 20 in D minor: Più mosso
Track 45 on CDS44041/8 CD7 [0'57] Boxed set (at a special price) — Download only
No 23. Coda in D minor: Andante
Track 46 on CDS44041/8 CD7 [1'54] Boxed set (at a special price) — Download only

Track-specific metadata for CDS44041/8 disc 7 track 41

No 18 Variation 16 in D minor: Allegro vivace
Artists
ISRC
GB-AJY-93-04741
Duration
0'29
Recording date
1 November 1978
Recording venue
Conway Hall, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
John Boyden
Recording engineer
Caroline Dorey
Hyperion usage
  1. Rachmaninov: The Complete Solo Piano Music (CDS44041/8)
    Disc 7 Track 41
    Release date: March 1993
    Deletion date: February 2014
    Boxed set (at a special price) — Download only
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