“Nine Variations on a March by Dressler”: Music by the 12-year-old Beethoven

Here is Beethoven’s first published work, written in 1782 when the composer was twelve years old. It’s a set of nine variations on a simple, stately march melody by Christian Ludwig Dressler (1734-1779), a now obscure German composer, operatic tenor, violinist, and music theorist.

First, we hear Dressler’s original theme, which is infused with military fanfare rhythms. Filled with a playful, improvisatory spirit, Beethoven’s variations begin with sly embellishments. Each becomes more adventurous and virtuosic. The final variation erupts in a dazzling display of keyboard fireworks. It’s pure, youthful fun.

The piece is set in C minor, a key that would later give rise to some of Beethoven’s most turbulent and heroic music, including the Pathétique Sonata, Coriolan Overture, and the Fifth Symphony.

Now, you may want to hear a set of variations from the mature Beethoven: the 33 Variations on a waltz by Anton Diabelli, Op. 120, which the music writer Donald Tovey called, “the greatest set of variations ever written.”

Recordings

  • Beethoven: 9 Variations on a March by Dressler, WoO 63 – Thema. Maestoso in C Minor, Mikhail Pletnev DeutscheGrammophon.com

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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