The Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn, (German:
Variationen über ein Thema von Jos. Haydn), now also
called the Saint Anthony Variations, is a work in the
form of a theme and variations, composed by Johannes
Brahms in the summer of 1873 at Tutzing in Bavaria. It
consists of a theme in B-flat major based on a "Chorale
St Antoni", eight variations, and a finale. The work
was published in two versions: for two pianos, written
first but designated Op. 56b; and for orchestra,
designated Op. 56a.
The orchestral version is better known and much more
often heard than the two-piano version. It is often
said to be the first independent set of variations for
orchestra in the history of music, although there is at
least one earlier piece in the same form, Antonio
Salieri's Twenty-six Variations on 'La folia di Spagna'
written in 1815.
Brahms's orchestral variations are scored for piccolo,
2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons,
contrabassoon, 4 horns (2 in E flat, 2 in B flat), 2
trumpets, timpani, triangle, and the normal string
section of first and second violins, violas, cellos and
double basses. The piece usually takes about 18 minutes
The first performance of the orchestral version was
given on 2 November 1873 by the Vienna Philharmonic
Orchestra under Brahms's baton.
Although originally written for Orchestra, I arranged
it for Wind Ensemble (Flute, Oboe, Bb Clarinet, Bass
Clarinet, French Horn, Eb Alto Horn, Bassoon &