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Variations on an English theme

Haydn, Brahms & Britten

Endless imagination
Young talent
Dates Fri 13 Dec, Sat 14 Dec Venue Sydney Opera House
Duration 2 hours 10 mins (incl. 20-min interval)

Take a theme - change it, enhance it, disguise it… Musical variations - the ultimate test of creativity.

After years holed up in the Hungarian countryside, Haydn headed off to England where he made a fortune as the most famous composer in the world. The acclaim brought with it an honorary degree from Oxford and his radiant and witty Symphony No.92 was part of the celebrations. Later Brahms paid his own tribute to Haydn with a set of variations that builds from a serene, hymn-like tune to a majestic climax.

If variation technique is a test of creativity, the Brahms and Britten pass with flying colours. Britten's Young Person's Guide, which uses a 17th-century theatre tune to shine a spotlight on the orchestra, from piccolo to percussion. And Britten's darkly eloquent violin concerto - concluding with its own set of variations - is the vehicle for young Norwegian violinist Vilde Frang, making her Australian debut.

Pre-concert talk at 7.15pm in the Northern Foyer.
Variations on an English Theme

Audio kindly supplied by Silver Partner Universal Music.


Track 1 - BRITTEN The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra: Theme (Henry Purcell)
Track 2 - BRITTEN The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra: Fugue
London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Benjamin Britten
DECCA 425 6592

BRAHMS Variations on a Theme of Joseph Haydn: Variation No.7 (Grazioso)
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Bernard Haitink
DECCA 478 2443

Audio kindly supplied by Silver Partner Universal Music.

  • HAYDN Symphony No.92 (Oxford)
  • BRITTEN The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Purcell)
  • BRITTEN Violin Concerto
  • BRAHMS Variations on a Theme of Haydn
  • James Gaffigan conductor
  • Vilde Frang violin
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