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Federico Mompou

Variations on a Theme of Chopin is one of maverick Catalan composer Federico Mompou's largest piano compositions. He originally started writing it for cello and piano, following a suggestion in 1938 from cellist Gaspar Cassadò. He abandoned the effort, but eventually turned out four variations that he oddly titled Three Variations. In 1957, Mompou completed this version, which like the others is founded upon the famous theme from Chopin's Prelude in A major No. 7, Op. 28.

There are 12 variations, the first of which leaves this slow, beautiful theme unaltered; however, it adds some curious harmonies almost as if Mompou is poking fun. The second variation, lively and carefree, imparts a sudden sense of brightness, while the next returns to the warmth and intimacy of the original theme. The fourth may be the most distant variation, sounding almost like a different theme in its subtle beauties. The ensuing variation is playful, coming across as mostly a sped-up version of Chopin's melody. The sixth is mysterious and troubled, while the next is deliciously light and colorful in its brevity. The slow and dreamy eighth variation would sound almost like a new theme but for a few quite recognizable snatches of the original melody. The ninth is stately and graceful in its serene manner and the tenth, at over three minutes, is the second-lengthiest and perhaps most colorful, even quoting the alternate theme in Chopin's Fantasie-Impromptu, Op. 66. The penultimate variation is initially mysterious and gentle, but transforms into a more grandiose manner, while the four-minute concluding one, the longest, deftly juxtaposes fast and slow music in its first part ("Galope") and turns serene and sweet in its Epilogue.