Variations on a well-liked theme, mainly from contemporary operas, were extremely popular at the end of the 18th century. Even the young Beethoven made several contributions to this genre. We do not know of any concrete occasion for the composition of the three cycles of Variations for Violoncello and Piano - they are on two themes from Mozart's “The Magic Flute” and one from Handel's oratorio “Judas Maccabaeus”. The number of reproduction at that time does, however, reveal that they were very popular right from the beginning. This revision is based on new findings contained in the Critical Report of the Beethoven Complete Edition (published in 2008).
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