Iain Farrington

Pianist, organist, composer, arranger

Johannes Brahms: Variations on a Theme of Haydn

for Octet


Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) composed his Variations on a Theme of Haydn in 1873, in two versions: one for two pianos (Op. 56b) and one for orchestra (Op. 56a). It is a theme and variations based on the Saint Anthony Chorale. Brahms took the theme from the second movement of a wind ensemble piece Divertimento No. 1 that was attributed to Joseph Haydn. It is now thought that Haydn did not compose the piece, and it may instead have been by Ignaz Joseph Pleyel, a pupil of Haydn. There are eight variations on the theme followed by a finale using a ground bass or passacaglia, a concept that Brahms was later to use in his Fourth Symphony. This arrangement is for octet, using the same instrumentation as Schubert's Octet in F major, D803.


Available to hire or purchase from Aria Editions here


Instrumentation: clarinet, bassoon, horn, violin 1, violin 2, viola, cello, double bass (8 players)


Listen to a live performance here:


Brahms - Variations on a Theme of Haydn (16’50)