At the core of Beethoven’s “Diabelli” Variations, an esoteric and astonishing piano piece lasting some 50 minutes, is one of the intriguing mysteries of music history. Why did Beethoven, during the difficult last decade of his life, when he was deaf, chronically ill and often in financial straits, become nearly obsessed with writing an extensive and complex set of variations on a dumpy little waltz, a theme he had first dismissed as a “cobbler’s patch”?

Anthony Tommasini, “A Musical Giant, Obsessed With a Little Tune”, The New York Times, 4 March 2009.  

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