From Bach's Goldberg to Beethoven's Diabelli

Influence and Independence

By (author) Alfred Kanwischer

Hardback - £84.00

Publication date:

15 May 2014

Length of book:

238 pages


Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

ISBN-13: 9781442230637

In From Bach’s Goldberg to Beethoven’s Diabelli: Influence and Independence, music scholar and noted pianist Alfred Kanwischer takes readers on an extended exploration in which each of the thirty-three pieces making up Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations (Op. 120) is caringly examined and assessed for its ingredients, actions, personality, and influence on the whole. Counterpoint abounds, not only in the fugal variations, which are closely parsed, but throughout the Diabelli, revealing the noticeably baroque character of the technical compositional devices Beethoven employs.

Throughout his study, Kanwischer integrates comparisons with Bach’s immortal Goldberg Variations. Both sets stand alone as among the greatest keyboard variations in the Western canon. During their creation, the composers were nearly the same age, at the zenith of their art, and in similarly felicitous frames of mind. Kanwischer underscores twenty essential similarities, from the use of melody and melodic outline and the comparability among variations in size, parallel design, ebullient outlook, increasing contrasts, daring virtuosic flights, Shakespearean blend of comic and tragic, and their respective cumulative rises to spiritual transcendence.

From Bach’s Goldberg to Beethoven’s Diabelli takes readers on a lively and stimulating journey of discovery. It considers not only questions of influence but those of insight and understanding, offering a work useful as a reference and as a guide to performers, music instructors, and devotees. This work also includes seventy visually annotated interpretive musical examples as aids to understanding.
Alfred Kanwischer’s monumental study of these two great variation sets is especially valuable because it comes from a gifted performer and wide-ranging historian who has devoted decades to the intricate details of their construction and meaning. Musicologists often lament the fact that the great performers hesitate to record in words what they have learned from their intense study of works for public performance. Here is a study that documents exactly the kind of in-depth analysis we seek, and one richly interspersed with aphoristic quotes, references to useful secondary literature, and the author’s own keen insights. There is nothing quite like this study.