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Harpsichord & fortepiano

John Collins

Volume 16, No. 1

Work: Joseph Gelinek, Eight variations on
“Wie stark ist nicht dein Zauberton” (Mozart)
Editor: Christopher Hogwood
Publisher: Edition HH, HH172.SOL


Gelinek was preoccupied with composing sets of variations, and in particular wrote several sets based Mozart's melodies. When Mozart heard one of his, own opera themes being used in improvisation by Gelinek he was sufficiently impressed to recommend the young man.

The eight variations presented here were first published in Vienna in 1793 by Artaria, and later in 1820 in Offenbach. The theme is presented first, then the first variation proceeds in semiquavers in the right hand, frequently with much chromatic writing, over held chords in the first part and quavers in the second. The second variation comprises either extended semiquaver arpeggiation or oscillating figures in the left hand against quavers, sometimes in octaves. Variation three contains some tricky left hand two-note quaver writing in thirds or sixths against semiquavers; in number four the virtuosity increases with octave quavers in the left hand and an inner part of semiquavers against an upper of quavers for the right. In variation five, headed Alla Turka, the piece moves into the relative minor, with the traditional drumbeat figures in the left hand.

Variation six is headed Marcia maestoso; apart from more octave writing in the right hand there are some contrary motion arpeggiated passages in a dotted rhythm. The seventh variation is a 3/8 Presto Alla Tedesca with further drumbeats in the left hand against either chromatic conjunct motion or extended arpeggios. The set concludes with a lengthy 3/8 Presto featuring two-part writing full of sweeping semiquaver figuration; this leads into an extended coda with much made of the dominant seventh in the right hand moving through the whole of the keyboard before the recapitulation of the theme. Throughout the set we can see the sure hand of a composer who has the felicitous gift of being able to combine rhythmic and melodic phrases successfully, and not relegating them to be merely subservient to the virtuoso demands of the writing.

The printing again is clear, and the critical commentary advises us of Hogwood's amendments. The standard of is indeed high and a well developed technique will be required to do this work justice. The dynamic markings are not copious, but suffice to indicate that performance on the piano or the clavichord will produce the best results. Christopher Hogwood is to be commended for his continual mining of a rich vein of the lesser­known pieces associated with the Viennese masters, resulting in well produced and reasonably priced modern editions.

We are grateful to John Collins for permission to reproduce this review.
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