Donald Macleod explores Beethoven’s life as a set of themes and variations, beginning with his very first musical excursions in the form in the early 1790s.

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) composed piano music in the form of themes and variations across his entire career – from his earliest published work to his late, titanic “Diabelli Variations”, lasting nearly an hour. And Beethoven’s life can itself be seen as a set of variations on a theme: recurring episodes of unrequited love, artistic anguish, angry fallings-out and constant striving for the highest pinnacle of musical achievement. Yet Beethoven’s piano variations often lie in the shadow of his 32 great sonatas for the instrument. This week, Donald Macleod puts that right – shining a light on this remarkable corpus of work, as well another often-overlooked genre: his piano bagatelles.

Diabelli Variations (Theme and 1st variation)
Variations in C Minor on a theme of Ernst Christoph Dressler, WoO 63
Variations in G on “Quant’e piu bello”, WoO 69
Piano Trio no 2 in G, Opus 1 No 2 (2nd mvt)
Piano Concerto no 2 in B Flat, Op 19 (3rd mvt)
Six Bagatelles, Op 126
Variations in D on “Rule Britannia!”, WoO 79
Variations in F, Op 34
Christ On The Mount Of Olives, Op 85 (excerpt)
Seven Bagatelles, Op 33
Bagatelle in C Major, Woo 54 “Lustig-Traurig”
Clarinet Trio, Op 38 (5th mvt)
An die Hoffnung, Op 32
Eroica Variations, Op 35
Triple Concerto in C Major, Op 56 (2nd and 3rd mvts)
Tarnopolsky: Echoes Of The Passing Day
Bagatelle in A Minor (“Für Elise”), WoO 59
Variations in C Minor, WoO 80
Mass in C Major: Credo
Variations on an original theme (March from the “Ruins of Athens”), Op 76
Eleven Bagatelles, Op 119
Diabelli Variations, Op 120: Theme
Diabelli Variations, Op 120: Variations 1-10
Diabelli Variations, Op 120: Variations 11-14
Franz Liszt: Variation 24 for Diabelli’s Waltz
F.X. Mozart: Variation 28 for Diabelli’s Waltz
Schubert: Variation 38 for Diabelli’s Waltz
Diabelli Variations, Op 120: Variations 15-18
Diabelli Variations, Op 120: Variations 25-33

Presented by Donald Macleod
Produced by Steven Rajam

For full track listings, including artist and recording details, and to listen to the pieces featured in full (for 30 days after broadcast) head to the series page for Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

And you can delve into the A-Z of all the composers we’ve featured on Composer of the Week here:

from Composer of the Week