Variations on Serious questions

Variations on Serious questions
Tchaikovsky. Source:

On the subject of variations, let's try a varied format -- questions and small answers, as far as I have them. Here goes!

Why do people think that "Variations on a Theme" is a synonym for dull and/or boring? Musically, it's not the same old theme played the same old way -- it's a way to describe what happens to a theme in a number of different ways.

For example, "Variations on a Rococo Theme" by Petr I. Tchaikovsky, which some refer to as his cello concerto, starts out with a very simple theme I've known how to play for years. Some of its variations make good workouts; one is my favorite lullaby -- get out of here, Brahms! But some variations are difficult to read at the correct speed, let alone play -- and the original theme's melody sometimes disappears into the orchestra part, then comes back only to be in terribly high notes compared to the comfortably low originals.

When something has gone on all year, do you automatically fire off a "Happy anniversary" note? You don't send one involving the word "anniversary" until a year has gone by, do you?

(After some of the years I've finished, I'd rather have had a "How are you?" note instead of happier wishes. Also, remember that "anniversary" comes from the French word for year, an, or all year, annee. Never mind those childish "sixth-month anniversary" ideas.)

Are  you planning to buy and send Christmas cards? If not, if you're thinking of just sending e-mails, think of this: How often have you glimpsed someone's handwriting and been thrilled? Now, how often has that thrill happened from an e-mail address?

(Does that one really need an answer?)

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  • Question on Question 1 is how many people go to a concert to hear rehearsal exercises? Somehow I get the image of Professor LeBlanc trying to teach Jack Benny.

  • In reply to jack:

    Oh no, rehearsal exercises are the last thing I'd compare to a set of variations on a theme... unless, of course, it's the variations you're practicing. It's not Prof. LeBlanc's "Nero played while Rome was burning/Right now for a match I'm yearning." It's Mozart taking "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" and turning it into a set of related, but recognizable, tunes.

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    Like "ABCDEFG." I think they tried that on Sesame St. Baa Baa Black Sheep is also cited.

  • In reply to jack:

    Yes. Thinking it over (in Mr. Benny's memorable phrase), "Baa Baa Black Sheep" would fit the same tune (or at least rhythm) as "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star."

  • As for variations, how about "Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini" by Rachmaninoff?

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Yes, please! The Rachmaninoff "Rhapsody" contains my favorite variations apart from the Tchaikovsky I mentioned above. I first learned abou them from a 1980 fantasy film, "Somewhere In Time," with Christopher Reeve as a time traveler who loved variation no. 18.
    Good choice!

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