Dittersdorf’s comically rudimentary tune is a vision of dry bones, as bare as the famous ‘Eroica’ theme which it faintly resembles. On it Beethoven builds fourteen variations, decorative in the eighteenth-century tradition (the theme is always easily recognizable), but entertainingly contrasted in spirit and texture. The lusty, syncopated tenth variation, for instance, is followed by an almost exaggeratedly demure dialogue for the strings, while the delicately tripping twelfth is disrupted by an uncouth fortissimo outburst – Beethoven gleefully sticking out his tongue at rococo decorum. There are two slow variations in E flat minor (No 7 and No 13), a jolly, ‘hunting-style’ 6/8 final variation and a coda that recalls No 13, now in C minor, before a brief Presto send-off.
from notes by Richard Wigmore © 2004