Tema con variazioni, Op. 36, B65

Opus number


Burghauser catalogue number


Date of composition

December 1876 (1878 ?)

Premiere - date and place

(?) 5 March 1881, Praha

Premiere performer(s)

(?) Karel Slavkovský

First edition

Bote & Bock, 1879, Berlin


approx. 15 min.

These variations on an original theme is one of Dvořák’s earliest, but also most sophisticated piano pieces. Its eloquence lies both in the unusual character of the main theme, creating an uneven period, and the composer’s now fully developed skills in treating and sculpting the melody. The piece begins with the theme, which is followed by eight contrasting variations demonstrating a colourful palette of compositional techniques. In terms of style the work follows on from the piano writing of Beethoven and Brahms. In contrast to Dvořák’s Piano concerto from the same period, the Variations are much kinder to the performer. Despite its obvious qualities, and despite its successful Prague premiere on 5 March 1881, these variations (like the majority of the composer’s piano pieces) continue to be overshadowed by Dvořák’s more famous orchestral, chamber and oratorio works.