About this work
Rochberg's 50 Caprice Variations are variation studies on the theme from Paganini's 24th Caprice for violin; fittingly, they are an hour-long test of skill and endurance that might have flabbergasted even the great 19th century master. They also show Rochberg turning away from the serialism of his early career and instead towards the tonal structures that would become his hallmark in the 1970s. There are some atonal variations to be found here, but the majority are firmly rooted in tonality, and some even feature borrowings from famous Romantic works, such as Beethoven's Seventh Symphony, Mahler's Fifth Symphony, and a Schubert waltz. Several variations also invoke older forms and styles, such as the can-can, the barcarolle and the scherzo. Realizing that the entire set is forbiddingly long for both performer and audience, Rochberg has sanctioned omitting the repeats in some of the longer etudes, or choosing only selections from the set. He also permits the performer to choose his own performing order. The Caprice-Variations have become recognized as one of the finest of the twentieth century's compositions for solo violin. They were premiered in New York by Zvi Zeitlin on February 6, 1975.