John Collins - Organist, Harpsichordist Iberian Musicologist, Translator

Josef Gelinek Eight variations on Wie stark ist nicht dein Zauberton (Mozart) .

Title:Eight variations on Wie stark ist nicht dein Zauberton (Mozart).

Editor:Christopher Hogwood

Publisher:Edition HH. HH172.sol Bicester 2006

Reviewed by John Collins

Gelinek was preoccupied with composing sets of variations, several sets being based on melodies by Mozart, who had heard him improvising on a theme from one of his (Mozart’s) operas and 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 RH, frequently with much chromatic writing, over held chords in the first part and quavers in the second. The second variation comprises either extended semiquaver arpeggiations or oscillating figures in the LH against quavers, sometimes in octaves. Variation three contains some tricky lh two-note quaver writing in thirds or sixths against semiquavers, in number four the virtuosity increases with octave quavers in the lh and an inner part of semiquavers against an upper of quavers for the rh. In variation five, headed Alla Turka, the piece moves into the relative minor, with the traditional drumbeat figures in the LH. Variation six is headed Marcia maestoso; apart from more octave writing in the rh there are some contrary motion apreggiated passages in a dotted rhythm. The seventh variation is a 3/8 presto Alla Tedesca with further drumbeats in the LH against either chromatic conjunct motion or extended arpeggios. The set concludes with a lengthy presto of two-part writing in 3/8 full of sweeping semiquaver figuration that leads into an extended coda with much made of the dominant seventh in the rh 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 C. Hogwood’s amendments. The standard of writing is indeed difficult and a highly developed technique will be required to do this work justice. The dynamic markings are not copious, but suffice to indicate 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 lesser-known pieces associated with the Viennese masters resulting in well produced and reasonably priced modern editions from Per Hartmann.

Back to Reviews

© John Collins 2013