Starting Oct. 31, MusicalFare Theater is doing "33 Variations," the Broadway play about Beethoven's "Diabelli" Variations. The title refers to the monumental variations Beethoven wrote on a simple waltz put out by the Viennese publisher Diabelli. He was holding a contest for composers to show what they could do.
I have not seen "33 Variations" but I have watched little promos on YouTube of various productions. It is about a dying musicologist who is obsessing over the music and also it involves her relationship with her daughter, too, as I understand it.
One thing I kind of disagree with the musicologist about. I saw in some clip or other that she thinks Beethoven appears to have been obsessed with this goofy little waltz that Diabelli wrote, and suggests that there must have been something special about it.
I think it was just this goofy tinny little waltz and Beethoven wanted to show that he could transcend it and build it into something great.
Not only that but he was hell-bent on squashing all his competition with a hammer. His competition, by the way, included a teenage Franz Liszt, also Franz Schubert. Some first-rate geniuses. So he had to bring out the heavy artillery.
There are all kinds of sites where scholars and amateurs alike chew on Beethoven's "Diabelli" Variations. YouTube has neat videos that let you listen and follow along. Listen to them and see what you think.
-- Mary Kunz Goldman
taggedMusic | Theater