Küffner Theme and Variations, Op. 32

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Composer: Küffner, Joseph, 1776-1856
   Country of origin: Germany
Title: Introduktion, Thema und Variationen für Klarinette und Streichquartett, Op. 32
   Other titles: Theme and Variations for Clarinet and Strings, Op. 32
Year(s) composed: 1817
Publisher: Edition Silvertrust; Bote & Bock
Duration (in minutes): 11
Clarinet type: B-flat
Note: Streichquartett = violin, 2 violi, cello; ,See comment below

2 thoughts on “Küffner Theme and Variations, Op. 32

  1. This work has been proven beyond doubt to be the work of Joseph Küffner (1776-1856). It is scored for clarinet, violin, two violas, & cello.

    The original title was “Quintetto”, and the first publication by Schott carried a dedication to Adam Joseph Schott (1794-1840), a member of the publisher’s family, and a pupil of Heinrich Baermann. According to the B. Schott’s Söhne Stichbücher, the work was published in 1815 as plate 795, when Adam would have been about 18 years old. The work was reprinted in 1816, 1818 and 1820, with over 250 copies being produced (https://www.digitale-sammlungen.de/en/view/bsb00109529?page=358,359).

    The publication by Leonard Kohl (1962) was given the title “Introducktion, Thema und Variationen” and carried the remark that it was composed in 1815 for Heinrich Baermann, and was a previously unpublished composition from Weber’s estate. Both these claims were removed from later reprints, however the title page still gave Weber as the composer.

    According to Kroll (1965), Kohl found the work in 1943 as a manuscript copy titled “Concertino fur Klarinette und Streichquartett”. Kroll was of the opinion that this work was the “missing work” for Baermann’s name day in 1815, however that work is now known to be the “Dreistimmige Burleske”, a work for voices and piano with a humorous reworking of text from Mozart’s Zauberflöte. Kohl first published the work with Afas Verlag (date unknown), and then later, in a revised form, with Bote & Bock in 1962. Enquiries with Kohl’s wife by Ulrich Rau (1966) drew the response that he could no longer remember where he found the manuscript, on account of advancing age, but that he may have found it in Königsberg before the war. Since Königsberg was heavily bombed in 1944, this manuscript is unlikely to have survived.

    Records of Weber’s estate contain no mentions of a work for clarinet which could be the theme and Variations. The first mention of this work under Weber’s name does not appear until about 1949.

    Rau makes a stylistic evaluation that the work could not be by Weber, noting the use of simple stereotypes. In particular Rau notes the use of the throat g as an axis in Variation 4, which harks back to eighteenth century clarinet writing, and which is nowhere to be found in Weber’s much more progressive style of writing for the clarinet.

    Rau located another copy of the work, with two violins and one viola which gave Küffner as the author (location not given).

    It seems plausible that Kohl may have completely fabricated the story. If the work had been performed as a composition of Weber it could hardly have escaped attention until Kohl found it in the 1940’s. Certainly the claim that the work was part of Weber’s estate was invented, as was the claim that it was composed for Heinrich Baermann. The mention of Königsberg might have simply been a useful cover for the fact that a manuscript naming Weber as the author could not be produced.

    Another quintet by Küffner for the same combination of instruments, Op 33, was issued and reprinted together with Op 32 (Schott plate 798). The original fair copy of this work made by Küffner, and preserved in the Schott archive, is beautifully copied and without errors; comparison with the printed edition shows how carefully it was prepared. There is little reason to think this was not also the case with Op 32.


    Rau, Ulrich. “Von Wagner, von Weber? Zwei Kammermusikwerke Für Klarinette Und Streichinstrumente Unter Falscher Autorschaft.” Die Musikforschung, vol. 29, no. 2, 1976, pp. 170–75. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/41117921. Accessed 28 June 2023.

    Kroll, Oskar and Diethard Riehm. Die Klarinette: Ihre Geschichte Ihre Literatur Ihre Grosse Meister. Bärenreiter 1965. P. 53, footnote 2.

    Kroll, Oskar. The Clarinet. London: B. T. Batsford, 1968. p. 76, footnote 1.

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