Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Nationality: German
Baptized: December 17, 1770, Bonn Died: March 26, 1827, Vienna (age 56)

Variations on Wenzel Müller’s song "Ich bin der Schneider Kakadu" for Piano Trio in G major, Op. 121a

(for violin, cello and piano)
Duration: 18 minutes (approximately)
Composed: c. 1803 (age 32-33)
Published: 1824 (age 53-54)
1 recording, 1 videos
Haydn Trio Eisenstadt
From Kai Christiansen

Ludwig van Beethoven 1770-1827

Variations on Müller's song "Ich bin der Schneider Kakadu", Op. 121a, c.1803
Ludwig van BeethovenWorking in every major form of classical music, Beethoven wrote six main piano trios beginning with his very first opus number and culminating in the expansive, groundbreaking Archduke piano trio of his middle period. He also wrote several other pieces for the ensemble of violin, cello and piano including a very early lone piano trio (c.1791), two single movement Allegrettos, and two sets of variations. For completeness, there is also the lovely Op. 11 originally scored for clarinet, cello and piano that Beethoven transcribed for traditional piano trio. It is believed that the "Kakadu" variations were written around 1803, possibly revised in 1816 but not published until 1824 (hence the high opus number) making them the last of Beethoven's published works for piano trio.

The variations are based on the aria "Ich bin der Schneider Kakadu" ("I am the tailor Cockatoo") from Wenzel Müller's Viennese Singspiel "The Sisters of Prague" first staged around 1794, most likely Müller's best known opera. A simple tune, really more of a simple chord progression with vast possibilities for play, becomes superior musical entertainment in the hands of Beethoven who wrote the Diabelli Variations and the Eroica finale around the same time. Every permutation of the piano trio has its chance to contribute to a sequence of variations with great variety and a dazzling finish. Just for a little something extra, Beethoven withholds the initial Kakadu theme by starting with a dramatically ominous introduction that lasts as long as one-third of the performance practically making this a twomovement epic miniature, pure Beethoven from scowl to smile to radiant effulgence. Someone once called this piece "making a silk purse out of a sow's ear."

© Kai Christiansen and Music at Kohl Mansion. All rights reserved.

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Related Composers

Archduke Rudolph (1788-1831)
Nationality: Austrian
Born: January 8, 1788, Florence Died: July 4, 1831, Baden (age 43)
Ferdinand Ries (1784-1838)
Nationality: German
Baptized: November 28, 1784, Bonn Died: January 13, 1838, Frankfurt (age 53)
Carl Czerny (1791-1857)
Nationality: Austrian
Born: February 21, 1791, Vienna Died: July 15, 1857, Vienna (age 66)
Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
Nationality: Austrian
Born: March 31, 1732, Rohrau, Austria Died: May 31, 1809, Vienna (age 77)
Christian Gottlob Neefe (1748-1798)
Nationality: German
Born: February 5, 1748, Chemnitz Died: January 26, 1798, Dessau (age 49)
Johann Albrechtsberger (1736-1809)
Nationality: Austrian
Born: February 3, 1736, Klosterneuburg Died: March 7, 1809, Vienna (age 73)
Nikolaus Zmeskáll (1759-1833)
Nationality: Hungarian
Born: November 20, 1759, Unterkubin Died: June 23, 1833, Vienna (age 73)
Friedrich Kuhlau (1786-1832)
Nationality: German | Danish
Born: September 11, 1786, Uelzen Died: March 12, 1832, Copenhagen (age 45)
Johann Hummel (1778-1837)
Nationality: Austrian
Born: November 14, 1778, Pressburg (now Bratislava) Died: October 17, 1837, Weimar (age 58)
Emanuel Aloys Förster (1748-1823)
Nationality: Austrian | Bohemian
Born: January 26, 1748, Niederstaina Died: November 12, 1823, Vienna (age 75)
Heinrich Marschner (1795-1861)
Nationality: German
Born: August 16, 1795, Zittau Died: December 14, 1861, Hanover (age 66)