Composers > Inspiration > Diabelli’s Other Variations
by Maureen Buja | April 3rd, 2016

standard Diabelli’s Other Variations

Anton Diabelli by Jpseph Kriehuber

Anton Diabelli by Jpseph Kriehuber

It’s one of those things – you come up with a great project, you get a lot of people involved, they give you brilliant stuff and then one person comes along and trumps everything. And so it was with Anton Diabelli. In 1819, he decided to publish a set of variations based on a waltz he’d written. The important difference was that he didn’t write the variations. He sent his waltz out to every important Austrian composer living, and a couple of non-Austrians, and they sent him back their own variation on his melody.

This was to be published as a work entitled Vaterländischer Künstlerverein (The Patriotic Artist’s Club). Fifty-one composers complied, sending in their single variations, except for that over-achiever Beethoven, who sent in a set of 33 variations.

Franz Xaver Mozart (1825) by Karl Gottlieb Schweikart

Franz Xaver Mozart (1825) by Karl Gottlieb Schweikart

Diabelli: 50 Variations on a Waltz by Diabelli: Theme (Artur Balsam, piano)
The list of composers (see below) is interesting, however. Of the 51 composers, we know very few of them today. They may have been important in 1819, but by 2016, most had vanished off the musical scene. Let’s take a look at what Diabelli reaped (ignoring Beethoven’s contribution).

Carl Czerny wrote only a little 30-second piece, but, more importantly, he had his student, the eight-year-old Franz Liszt contribute.

Czerny: 50 Variations on a Waltz by Diabelli: Variation 4 (Artur Balsam, piano)
Liszt: 50 Variations on a Waltz by Diabelli: Variation 24, S147/R26 (Artur Balsam, piano)
Johann Nepomuk Hummel (c. 1814)

Johann Nepomuk Hummel (c. 1814)

We can immediately hear the precocity of Liszt’s contribution. No delicate dance work for him, as we heard in the Czerny variation, he launches out immediately with bold gestures and a strong bass line.

Mozart’s student, Johann Nepomuk Hummel, can be contrasted with one of Hummel’s own students, Mozart’s son Franz Xaver Mozart, born some 5 months before his father’s death.

Hummel: 50 Variations on a Waltz by Diabelli: Variation 16, S161 (Artur Balsam, piano)
FX Mozart: 50 Variations on a Waltz by Diabelli: Variation 28 (Artur Balsam, piano)
Ignaz Moscheles by August Brasch

Ignaz Moscheles by August Brasch

Ignaz Moscheles, considered one of the leading piano virtuosos in Vienna of the time, also contributed a variation, as did Franz Schubert. Here we can hear the difference between a master virtuoso on the piano and a master virtuoso of song. Schubert takes the variation to the minor and gives it a poignancy that we’ve missed in the other variations.

Moscheles: 50 Variations on a Waltz by Diabelli: Variation 26 (Artur Balsam, piano)
Schubert: 50 Variations on a Waltz by Diabelli: Variation 38, D. 178 (Artur Balsam, piano)
One of the surprising composers in the list and one who contributes an interesting contrapuntal variation was Rudolph, Archduke of Austria. He began to take lessons around 1803 from Beethoven and we can hear that Beethovenian bravado in his variation.

Rudolf von Habsburg-Lothringen by Johann Baptist von Lampi the Elder

Rudolf von Habsburg-Lothringen by Johann Baptist von Lampi the Elder

Rudolph, Archduke of Austria: 50 Variations on a Waltz by Diabelli: Variation 40 (Artur Balsam, piano)
The coda to the whole project was supplied by Carl Czerny, who had quite a task to bring this tremendous variation set to a close (which he does quite dramatically).

Czerny: 50 Variations on a Waltz by Diabelli: Coda (Artur Balsam, piano)
List of composers (alphabetically)

Ignaz Assmayer
Ludwig van Beethoven
Carl Maria von Bocklet
Leopold Eustache Czapek
Carl Czerny
Joseph Czerny
Anton Diabelli
Joseph Drechsler
Emanuel Aloys Forster
Franz Jakob Freystadtler
Johann Gansbacher
Josef Gelinek
Anton Halm
Johann Hoffmann
Johann Horzalka
Joseph Huglmann
Johann Nepomuk Hummel
Anselm Huttenbrenner
Frederic Kalkbrenner
Friedrich August Kanne
Joseph Kerzkowsky
Conradin Kreutzer
Heinrich Eduard Josef von Lannoy
Marcus Leidesdorf
Franz Liszt
Joseph Mayseder
Ignaz Moscheles
Ignaz Franz von Mosel
Franz Xaver Mozart
Joseph Panny
Hieronymus Payer
Johann Peter Pixis
Wenzel Plachy
Gottfried Rieger
Philipp Jakob Riotte
Franz de Paula Roser
Rudolph (Archduke of Austria)
Johann Baptist Schenk
Franz Schoberlechner
Franz Schubert
Simon Sechter
Abbe Maximilian Stadler
Joseph von Szalay
Vaclav Jan Kritel Tomasek
Michael Umlauf
Jan August Vitasek
Graf Moriz von Dietrichstein
Jan Hugo Vorisek
Franz Weber
Friedrich Dionys Weber
Franz Weiss
Charles Angelus von Winkhler

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