Form-integrating Elements in the Variation Cycles by
Jan Nepomucen Bobrowicz.(1)

By Krzysztof Komarnicki

Of all the works with opus number by Jan Nepomucen Bobrowicz that survived till our times, almost two thirds are in the form of theme and variations. This also represents about a fifth of the works by this composer we know about from various sources.(2) There are some theme and variations cycles that are known to us by title only, the music itslef seems to have been lost. It is possible then, that new discoveries will uncover more works of this genre by the Polish composer. Should this happen, the results of my research presented will have to be revised.

Given the music by Bobrowicz which is actually available for study, however, we can draw some general conclusions. Due to the fact that Bobrowicz’ activity as a composer took place during two decades at best, even more, almost all of his works were printed during the 1830’s. The last known work by the composer are ‘Variations on the Theme by Bellini op. 30’ from 1837.(3) As the Leipzig edition of op. 6 was published in 1832, with his arrangement of the Mazurkas Op. 6 & 7 following a couple of years later, we can safely hypothesize that Bobrowicz abandoned the musical profession sometimes about 1840. With this in mind we can see the composer’s creativity as unusually intensive and very much time-concentrated and although it shows textural progress, the basic formal elements are unchanged. The purpose of this article is to formulate some ideas about these elements.

This paper contains the results of the analysis of eight variation cycles by Jan Nepomucen Bobrowicz that were available to me. They are:

—Variations on ‘La ci darem la mano’ from W. A. Mozart’s ‘Don giovanni’ op. 6;

—Variations on Ukrainian Song op. 7;

—Variations on An Original Theme op. 10;

—Introduction, Variations and Polonaise on a Tyrolese Theme op. 13;

—Variations on the Cavatine From ‘Zelmira’ by Gioacchino Rossini op. 16;

—Variations on a Favourite Waltz op. 18;

—Introduction and Variations on Polish Song “Ja ciebie nie zapomne” op. 20;

—Variations de Bravoure on ‘Oh! cara memoria’ by M. Caraffa op. 28.(4)

I would like to precede the report of the results of my research with an explanation of what is meant by ‘form-integrating elements’.

Bobrowicz’s variations belong to the type of numbered variations, as a rule ornamental ones. The basic element connecting the multi-movement cycle in a unity is therefore the theme: its main melodic points as well as its tonal and formal shape. In Bobrowicz’ output, the latter usually plays the main part. Crucial points of the theme generally have strong influence on a particular variation, but there are exceptions from this rule. Some variations show considerable independence in terms of motivic elaboration. Taking this fact into account each thorough quotation of the theme’s melody inside a variation cycle is noted as an additional form-integrating element.

The time signature of the theme is not always kept by Bobrowicz in every variation. However, in such cycles we can find elements that smoothly connect the variations of different meters.

In some cycles of Bobrowicz we can observe a tendency to connect two or more subsequent movements into a larger formal unity.

My chief interest, therefore, lies exactly in these additional integrating elements.

As a rule the theme is quoted fully in the minore variation. Since all Bobrowicz’ variations sets, but one (op. 7), were composed in a major mode, the above mentioned quotation means usually the change of the mode. As a rule, the minor mode variation is the penultimate one; so a full quotation of the theme at this point serves the purpose of recalling the melody which in preceding variations was treated gradually freely.

The most interesting example of the quotation of the theme is variation no. 4 from op. 13 (theme comes also in the penultimate variation; the function of this solution will be discussed later). Here the theme appears in different parts(5) of the composition in a neat, well-phrased dialogue:

example 1

Motivic reiterations are important factors in the recapitulation of the form of ‘Mozart Variations’ op. 6. The Coda of the final variation appears here as a sort of synthetic finale by use of reiterations of virtuoso cliches (German term: Spielfiguren) used by the composer in the preceding variations.

Figurations as they appear in the variations. Their reiterations in the Coda

Variation 2.

example 2example 3

Variation 1.

example 4example 5

Variation 4.

example 6example 7

Variation 5.

example 8example 9

Similarily, the Finale of ‘Rossini Variations’ op. 16 contains textural connections with the 4th Variation of the cycle. Motivic suggestions are present also in the Introduction to Variations op. 13. They appear in the course of this movement announcing the theme’s main motive.

example 10example 11

The tendency to integrate two or even more consecutive movements in larger formal entities is a constant feature of the Variations by Bobrowicz. A very strong integrating element is a virtuoso cadenza. Placed at the end of one movement it offers a smooth transition to the next one. In op. 20 the cadenza connects the introduction with the theme, in op. 6, 13 and 28, it serves as a transition between the penultimate and ultimate movement of the cycle. It is of particular importance in op. 13, as the Polonaise coming after the cadenza is not a variation of the theme. The Polonaise is also integrated with the preceding variation by means of polonaise closures which are suggested during the variation by extremely interesting manipulations with meter and rhythm.

The sixth variation is written in 3/8 time, but, just as the theme, it is actually composed in a duple time of 6/16. The structure of the melody in few ultimate measures converts three-notes groupings into the two-notes groupings and at the same time shifts the internal accents in the measures thus providing a strong expressive suggestion of a polonaise closure.

(The composer’s original writing)

example 12

(My rhythmic transcription of the same measures).

example 13

An interesting manipulation with the metre and rhythm also appears in the Variations op. 16. In this cycle the first and second variations are connected. The first variation is written in an alla breve time while the second is in 6/8. The first movement is written in triplets throughout, however, so we feel a 12/8 time rather than alla breve. A suitable carrying of the melodic line at the end of the first variation suggests in a natural, smooth way the beginning of the second variation.

example 14example 15

The use of note values from bigger to smaller also integrates, though to lesser degree, subsequent movements.

Bobrowicz always uses in the beginning movements of a cycle gradation of note values, usually from eights or 16th notes through the respective triplets to 16th or 32nd. Often it is connected with the accelaration of the tempo. In op. 7 the composer starts from 16th in the first variation to end with 32nd triplets in the finale. The quotation of the theme in the third variation stops this progress for a while as it serves as a slow movement in a three movement form. The progress of gradation of note values is also interrupted in op. 16.

In op. 13 and 28 the gradation runs undisturbed through variations no. 1 to 3. Thus these movements are connected in one formal chain, and can be seen as an entity [verbatim: as non-numbered variations—I mean the type of form of the first part of the Sonatina in C-major by Giuliani or the Andante from the third Symphony by Beethoven].(6)

In op. 20 the movements are grouped in pairs: the introduction is connected with the theme, the following variations are also coupled due to the sequence of movements having the eighth-note motion and 16th-note motion (despite the presence of 16ths in the first variation of this cycle, the eighth may be treated as a basic motion unit as in this variation melody composed in this motion dominates; 16th notes form only figurations of accompaniment, having as a motion a lesser impact). This formal solution may be seen as the influence of the rondo form.

Meter and rhythm elements decidedly influence the shape of ‘Variations on an Original Theme’ op. 10. This work is a set of character variations [similar to the form of Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations] and the whole cycle is constructed like a suite.

The theme is a march; its melody has nearly no influence on the following variations, which retain only the tonal and formal features of the theme. Variations no.1 and no. 4 are not dances. They show similarities to the Etude-form rather than to any given dance form. Nevertheless, the cycle may be treated as a suite, as through the ages composers quite often introduced to the suite movements other than dances.

Variation no. 2 is a waltz, though it is written noted in a duple time. Character of waltz is pointed not only by the composer’s indication (Tempo di Valse), but also by the structure of melody and accompaniment. Every bar—due to constant use of triplets (melody) and sextuplets (accompaniment)—is divided in two parts of 3/8 time. The accompaniment is typically waltz-like.

example 16

Variation no. 3 is again a march, so it shows the closest similarities to the theme. Variation no. 5 is a siciliana, in minor mode and 6/8 time. The appearance of this dance in a minor mode is only natural as the minore variation, as a rule, is slower and the siciliana of course is a dance of moderate tempo.

The last variation of the cycle is a brillant, extended polonaise. This dance form appears quite often as a finale, not only in the Variation cycles (op. op. 10, 13, 16 and probably also 30) but also in the ‘Grand pot-pourri’ for terz-guitar and cello (WoO, composed together with J. B. Gross) and also in the ‘6 Waltzes and Polonaise’ op. 11.

Dance-like elements connect in a compact unity also the ‘Variations on Valse Favorit’ op. 18. The cycle may be seen as a Grand Valse Brillante, as every variation is a waltz. The additional element connecting the movements into a whole is a short, brilliant coda appearing after each variation. The coda, in its first appearance after the first variation, is in fact a secondary theme and the short codas appearing after each of the subsequent variations are actually variations on this intial coda. Two slower variations (no. 4 and no. 7) as well as a finale which leads to a powerful, widely extended coda in brillantestyle indicates a stylized rather than a utilitarian character of the work.

Two works, op. 13 & op. 28, show the influence of the four movement sonata form. The first movement is the theme in a rather slow tempo (in op. 13 it is an Introduction with the theme). In both works three initial variations, as it was stated before, are connected into a chain of unnumbered variations, therefore creating a second movement.

The next movement is an extended structure of three consecutive variations in the tempi of Poco Andante— Allegro—Andante sostenuto (op. 13) and Piu moderato—Con fouco—Andantino. This structure plays the role of a slow movement with a contrasting trio. The influence may originate both from the form of some Chopin nocturnes as well as traditional operatic aria.

Contrary to the aforementioned complex movements, the last movement in both works is a single piece: the Polonaise (op. 13) and final variation (op. 28). They perform as an independed finale because of their size and virtuoso character.

It is well-worth mentioning that in both cases finale played attacca comes after a virtuoso cadenza ending the slow part. Thus, it is an additional form-integrating element.

The results of the research presented here on the cuurently available works by Jan Nepomucen Bobrowicz distinctly suggest that the composer tried to create— within the conventional genre of six or seven numbered variations on a short theme—a more compact form of reduced number of movements.

The next step should be a conversion of this analytical paper into a historic one with help of thorough comparison of the composer’s work not only with other guitar composers of his time but also with music for piano, violin and chamber music of the Romantic era.


End Notes:

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1. This article was first published, in Polish, in “Aktualny stan gitarystyki polskiej i perspektywy jej rozwoju” (’The current condition of the guitar in Poland and the perspctives of its developement’) in: “XXIII Zeszyt Naukowy AM w £odzi” (’23rd Scientific Book of the Music Academy in Lodz’). Translated here by the author with the kind collaboration of Mr. Matanya Ophee.

2. Oskar Kolberg, entry: Bobrowicz (Jan Nepomucen) in: Encyklopedia Powszechna (Universal Encyclopedia) vol. III, Warsaw, 1860, writes that Jan Nepomucen Bobrowicz wrote 41 guitar works.

3. Information about the advertisement in ‘Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung’ can be found in Hanna Batorowska’s valuable book “Jan Nepomucen Bobrowicz. Polski ksiêgarz i wydawca w Saksonii w czasach Wielkiej Emigracji” (’Jan Nepomucen Bobrowicz. Polish Bookseller and Publisher in Saxony in the Times of the Great Emigration’). Copy of Op. 30 is in the Vahdah Olcott-Bickford collection at the California State University in Northridge. Nº VOB 4933.

4. For the copies of early editions of op. 13 and 28 I am indebted to Dr. Pia Schmid from Munich, for the copies of op. 10 and 18—to Mr. Jerzy Zak. Op. 6 was published by Editions Orphée (1984), all other works can be found in the Rischel & Birket-Smith Collection at the Royal Library in Copenhagen. Their inclusion in “Klasycy gitary” (’Classics of the Guitar’) series, ed. by Józef Powrozniak, PWM Kraków 1985, was made possible through copies supplied to Prof. Powrozniak by Matanya Ophee.

5. W. Sasser made a distinction between the ‘voice’ and ‘part’, as ‘part’ can contain up to four voices. Although I know his book on Sor only from the quotation in H. Turnbull’s ‘The Guitar from the Renaissance to the Present Day’ I only suppose that we mean the same by respective terms.

6. In op. 28 variations are divided by fermatas, nevertheless gradation of note values stopped only in the variation no. 4 justifies such understanding of these movements.


Copyright © 1997 by Krzysztof Komarnicki. All Rights Reserved.

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