November 17, 2021

Modern-Day Music Scholar Delves into Beethoven Story

BEETHOVEN’S PREOCCUPATION: A scene from “33 Variations,” opening November 19 at Kelsey Theatre. The great composer’s obsession with one piece of music is considered one of the great riddles of classical music

Pierrot Productions will present 33 Variations November 19 through December 4 at Mercer County Community College’s Kelsey Theatre, located at 1200 Old Trenton Road in West Windsor Township.

Written by Moisés Kaufman, 33 Variations is inspired by one of classical music’s most enduring riddles: Why did Beethoven, during his final years, write 33 different variations of a seemingly insignificant waltz by a minor composer?

Kaufman’s play, which made its Broadway debut in 2009, toggles between contemporary times in New York and early 19th century Vienna. The story begins when modern-day music scholar, Katherine Brandt, is driven to explore the rationale behind Beethoven’s preoccupation with creating nearly three dozen variations of a humble waltz by a composer named Anton Diabelli. Beethoven’s obsession fuels Brandt’s obsession as their two worlds coexist on stage. Both characters face afflictions and are running out of time. Brandt suffers with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and a broken mother-daughter relationship, while Beethoven, entering the final years of his life, struggles with severe hearing loss. 

The play, directed by Kat Ross Kline of Marlton, is accented by a live pianist, Susan Green Hoffman. An essential component of the play, the pianist “mirrors the variation form of Beethoven’s great work with a fugue of interwoven themes and a graceful minuet finale” as described in an Oxford University Press blog by William Kinderman, a professor of musicology at the University of Illinois, whom the playwright had visited when shaping the play.

Private performances and group rates are available to ALS support and music appreciation groups upon request.

Performances are Friday and Saturday, November 19 and 20 at 8 p.m.; Sunday, November 21 at 2 p.m.; Saturday, November 27 at 2 and 8 p.m.; Sunday, November 28 at 2 p.m.; Friday, December 3 at 8 p.m.; and Saturday, December 4 at 2 and 8 p.m. Tickets are $18-$20. Visit