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Variations on a theme by Paganini

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Author Topic: Variations on a theme by Paganini  (Read 271 times)
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« on: January 07, 2017, 07:07:02 pm »

I recall, many years ago, Anthony Hopkins describing a conversation he had with an unspecified composer, which went something like this:

Hopkins: Are you working on anything at the moment?
Composer: Yes, I'm writing a set of variations on a theme by Paganini.
Hopkins: Oh, which one?
Composer: The usual one, I'm afraid.

It always IS that caprice, but as has been pointed out before, there's good reason for this. The theme may be highly decorated, but it has a very distinct harmonic "skeleton" to it, which can be boiled down to just nine notes. So it's possible to strip off Paganini's decorations and replace them with your own, and the relations between the variation and the original is easy to perceive.

It seems to me that a modern equivalent, if it were but realised, is the Japanese song Nyanyanyanyanyanyanya! otherwise known as the Nyan Cat Song ("nya" is Japanese for "meow"). Very twiddly, difficult to sing, but again with a clear skeleton to it. Here it is in a piano reduction:

I have heard it arranged for orchestra, and done in a pseudo-baroque manner, but very unimaginatively done. It awaits someone with talent to exploit the musical possibilities of this theme.
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« Reply #1 on: January 24, 2017, 01:05:38 am »

So, are you of the opinion that Rachmaninoff's Paganini variations is really quite simplistic and thus musically inconsequential? Or are you saying that some composer could be the next Rachmaninoff with Variations on a Cat Song?

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