The Theme and Variations is an adaptation by David Sumbler of the second movement of Mozart's flute quartet in C major, which also forms the sixth movement of the great wind Serenade in B flat for 13 instruments. There are some differences between Mozart's two versions of the material, and this arrangement for flute and harp draws on both of the originals.
Many of the themes on which composers have written sets of variations are in themselves not particularly interesting, but this piece is a striking exception: Mozart's theme fascinates the musical ear at every hearing. The harmonic pulse is especially intriguing: some of the time the harmony changes once every bar, sometimes every beat, and in other places once every half-beat. Yet in bars 9 to 16 of the theme (and hence most of the variations as well) there is only a single change of harmony, from dominant to tonic, each chord lasting for four whole bars. After four fairly conventional but imaginative variations, this feature reaches sublimity in variation 5: for a while time seems to stand still as the flute plays a gentle arpeggio figure over a murmuring accompaniment. After the serenity of this Adagio, the piece ends with a witty variation in the style of an Austrian Ländler.
The published copy is supplied with separate parts for flute and harp. The harp part includes markings for suggested pedalling and fingering.
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