12 Variationes über die Folie d'Espagne

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach

12 Variationes über die Folie d'Espagne in D minor

H. 263, WQ. 118/9

About this work

Based on the Renaissance Portuguese (not Spanish) tune La Folia, this set of variations finds the composer in an experimental mood. After laying out the theme plain, C.P.E. Bach puts the music through a series of short, quasi-improvisatory variations that generally attempt to fragment and disrupt the careful harmonic sequence of the initial chord progression. The melody shatters into a sequence of especially wide-ranging variants, some bearing scant resemblance to the original. The composer aims for maximum variety, alternating fast variations with slow ones, sparsely notated sequences with passages crammed with notes. A recitative-like variation midway through links the work to the high drama of opera, but the following variation, with its intricate, quick filigree, could be performed only on the keyboard, not by voice. The final variation ends the set in dizzying right-hand swirls.