Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Mozart
The Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Mozart, Op. 132, is a set of variations for orchestra composed in 1914 by Max Reger; the composer conducted the premiere in Berlin on February 5, 1915. He later produced a version for two pianos, Op. 132a.
The theme is drawn from the first movement of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Piano Sonata in A, K. 331, and is first presented by the oboe and two clarinets before being repeated by strings. Its second part appears again in the oboe and clarinet supported by high strings, and then is again repeated by the string section. Eight variations follow; the ninth is a fugue, in which the subject appears first in first violins before being answered after eight bars by the second violins. The piece concludes with a final, forceful statement of the theme by trumpets.
The work, which takes about 33 minutes to perform, consists of the following movements:
- Theme: Andante grazioso
- L'istesso tempo, quasi un poco più lento
- Poco agitato
- Con moto
- Quasi presto
- Sostenuto (quasi adagietto)
- Andante grazioso
- Molto sostenuto
This remains the composer's most popular and most-recorded orchestral work, although in recent decades it has largely disappeared from the concert hall. It has obvious antecedents in Johannes Brahms' Variations on a Theme by Haydn both in terms of the inspiration theme (both draw from a simple melodic phrase) and the subsequent style of variation. Many critics, however, have remained lukewarm to the piece as little more than Brahmsian pastiche.
- Reinhold Brinkmann, "Max Reger und die Neue Musik," in Max Reger, 1873–1973: Ein Symposion (Wiesbaden: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1974), pp. 87f.
- For examples, see Reinhold Brinkmann, "A 'Last Giant in Music': Thoughts on Max Reger in the Twentieth Century". The Musical Quarterly 2004 87(4):631–659; doi:10.1093/musqtl/gdh023
- David Ewen, Encyclopedia of Concert Music. New York; Hill and Wang, 1959.