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I have always wanted to compose a Theme and Variations. I got the idea yesterday of taking a Mozart theme and varying it. Now I have gotten even more specific. Even though the Turkish March is not my favorite Mozart piece(his 40th symphony is my favorite or if talking specifically piano works, the K 545 is my favorite), it does have what I think is an excellent theme to develop into a theme and variations. That is the beginning A minor section in ABA' form(bars 1-25 of the piece).

There are multiple reasons that I think this is a great theme to develop into a theme and variations but perhaps the strongest reason of all is that Mozart does not even touch that theme when it comes to development, he only develops the A major and F# minor sections of the rondo. The repeat of the A minor theme is a pure repeat, no note changes at all.

Since Mozart does not develop this beginning theme, that means I can do whatever I want with it in terms of development. I could have a variation where it goes from a March rhythm to a Waltz rhythm and the time signature changes respectively. I could have it modulate to another key like say Bb major via a pivot chord. I could do anything to it. Thing is, well, variations tend to build on each other so the second variation will often be more intense than the first variation and so on as you get more and more variations.

This is what makes Theme and Variations harder than it seems. With each progressing variation it tends to get more intense but you somehow have to have a satisfactory ending to it and not leave the listener hanging on a fleeting cadence.

So how can I get a satisfactory ending to a Theme and Variations besides adding a coda when each variation tends to get more intense than the previous(I plan on doing at least 10 variations on the theme)?

  • As ttw has already alluded to by mentioning that the original theme often gets reused as the last section, variations often become less intense than the previous variation. One drop in intensity between variations that I am greatly influenced by is the ending of Holst's "Fantasia on the 'Dargason'" from his Second Suite in F: the music dies away into two musical lines, one very low, the other very high. – Dekkadeci Mar 18 at 7:05
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Your coda idea is good. You could also make the last variation a resolution of the previous variations; return to the tonic and establish that key. One can lay out the key sequence of the variations sort of like a sonata-rondo or the like. Bach (and others) repeat the opening theme as the last variation.

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You could take the last phrase of the last variation, which is ending in to the tonic (V - I) and repeat it (sequencing) one degree higher VI - II), with an accelerando and sequence it again (V7 -I) and then extend this sequence down an octava and up again to the tonic with a great ritartando I - I - I - I .... I :)

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