Kuhlau Variations and Solos Print E-mail
Written by Tom Moore   

Notes on the Musical Sources for the Variations and Solos, op. 10, of Kuhlau, published at Hamburg by Auguste Cranz

Friedrich Daniel Rudolf Kuhlau (1786-1832) is probably best known to posterity through his compositions for the flute, including unaccompanied solos, sonatas and variations with piano, duos, trio, and a quartet for flutes, and other works. The duos are particularly well known as teaching works in the flute studio. The set of variations and caprices, usually known as op. 10b, and a very early work, must be familiar to almost every flutist. The edition published by Aug. Cranz in Hamburg is accessible over the net (along with many other printed editions it can be downloaded from the Danish National Library site1), and there is a modern edition published by Amadeus, edited by Peter Reidemeister, as well as a complete recording issued by Kontrapunkt in 1997. Arndt Mehring devotes a little more than one page to the collection in his book Friedrich Kuhlau in the Mirror of his Flute Works, and only traces three of the seven tunes with titles. Although the literature on Kuhlau and his flute works is relatively scant, developments in access to research materials mean that far more information about the sources of the popular tunes which Kuhlau varies is now available. This brief article will attempt to present what is known about these tunes, as well as providing the poetry to which the tunes were sung, and a literal translation into English of each poem.

No. 1. Femmes voules vous eprouver

This popular tune was drawn from the comic opera in one act, Le Secret, by composer Jean Pierre Solié (1755-1812), with words by Hoffman. This was premiered on April 20, 1796 at the Théâtre de l’Opéra-Comique (formerly the Théâtre Italien), and was a mixture of spoken theater and music4 . The tune was also the subject of variations for harpsichord/piano with violin (Ruppe) and for piano four hands (Lithander), and used to set an Idylle sur la Paix, with words by Citoyen Moline, published in 1797. There is a setting for voice and piano/harp by Bertin5. Interestingly, the melody was also used extensively by Masonic lodges for contrafacta in French on Masonic topics6. It is worth noting that Kuhlau was himself a Mason7, which explains the fact that three of the seven songs with texted originals in the collection have Masonic connections (nos. 1, 4 and 8).

Femmes, voulez-vous éprouver Women, do you want to find out

Si vous êtes encor sensibles? If you are still sensitive?

Un beau matin venez rêver  On a fine morning, come to dream

A l'ombre des bosquets paisibles. In the shadow of the peaceful forests.

Si le silence, la fraîcheur,  If the silence, the freshness

Si l'onde qui fuit et murmure   If the wave which flees and murmurs

Agitent encor votre coeur   If these still agitate your hearts,

Ah ! rendez grâce à la nature! Ah, give thanks to nature!


Mais dans le sein de la forêt,  But in the heart of the forest,

Asile sacré du mystère,  Sacred refuge of mystery,

Si votre coeur reste muet,   If your heart remains mute,

Femmes ne cherchez plus à plaire. Women, seek no more to please.

Si pour vous le soir d'un beau jour If, for you, the evening of a fine day

N'a plus ce charme qui me touche, No longer has the charm that it does for me,

Profanes, que le nom d'Amour You profane ones, may the name of Love

Ne sorte plus de votre bouche.  No longer be spoken by you.


Maris qui voulez éprouver Husbands, if you wish to find out

Jusqu'où va notre patience,   How far your patience goes,

Vous pourriez bien aussi trouver You might also discover

Le prix de votre impertinence.  The price of your impertinence.

Plus de pitié que de courroux Your insult is more to be

Est ce qu'on doit à votre injure.  pitied than censured.

Vos femmes valent mieux que vous Your women are worth more than you are,

Et j'en rends grâce à la nature8.  And for this I give thanks to nature.

No. 2 - Lasset Frieden uns Stiften

Somewhat surprisingly, the source of this tune turns out to be the duo Pace, caro mio sposo sung by the lovers Lilla and Lubino, from Act 2, Scene 15 of the well-known opera Una Cosa Rara by Valencian composer Vicente Martin y Soler, with libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte, premiered in Vienna at the Burgtheater on Nov. 17, 1786. It was the subject of variations for keyboard by Emanuel Aloys Förster, Eichinger. A vocal/piano arrangement (with the German text used here) was published in Hamburg ca. 1815 by Böhme, with the source given as the opera Lilla, oder Schonheit und Tugend, the title used for performances of the work in Berlin with a German text by Johann André.

Original text in Italian (I have been unable to obtain the original German text):

Pace caro mio sposo.   Peace, my dear husband.

Pace mio dolce amore  Peace, my sweet love.

Non sarai più geloso?  You won’t be jealous anymore?

No, non sarò, mio core. No, I won’t, my sweet.

Mi vorrai sempre? Bene.  Will you always love me? Well.

Mi sarai sempre? Amante.  Will you always be?…Your lover.

Son la tua sola? Speme.  Am I your only? Hope.

Ti serberai? Costante.  Will you always be? Constant.

Vieni, tra i bracci miei,  Come to my arms,

stringi, o mio caro ben,  Hold me, my dear,

l'anima mia tu sei,  You are my soul,

ti vo' morir nel sen.   I want to die in your embrace.

Dammi quella manina.

Sì, sì, mio bel diletto.Yes, yes, my delight.

Toccami il cor, carina. Touch my heart, dear.

Come ti balza in petto.  How your heart is beating.

No. 4 - Es kann schon nicht alles so bleiben

This song was published in both Mainz (Schott) and Hamburg (Böhme) about 1800, and sets a poem titled Gesellschaftslied by August von Kotzebue. The musical setting is by Friedrich Heinrich Himmel (1765-1814), who is almost unknown today, but was a widely published and successful composer of both vocal and instrumental music, including a Maurerlied (Masonic Song) in honor of Frederick III, King of Prussia. Himmel was himself a Mason, and was present when Louis Spohr became a member of the Lodge Ernst zum Compaß in Gotha

Es kann schon nicht alles so bleiben  Things cannot always so remain

Hier unter dem wechselnden Mond;  Here under the changing moon.

Es blüht eine Zeit und verwelket  What lives here on Earth with us

Was mit uns die Erde bewohnt. Must wax and wane.


Wir sitzen so fröhlich beisammen 
We sit so merrily together,

Wir haben uns alle so lieb, We get along so well,

Wir heitern einander das Leben, 
We make our lives amusing,

Ach wenn es doch immer so blieb'!  Ah, would it always be so!


Doch weil es nicht immer kann bleiben,  But since it cannot remain so,

So haltet die Freude recht fest! 
 Let us hang on to our joys!

Wer weiß denn, wie bald uns zerstreuet 
  Who knows how soon

Das Schicksal nach Ost und nach West.  Destiny will throw us to East and West.


Doch sind wir auch fern voneinander, 
But even if we are far from one another,

So bleiben die Herzen sich nah;  yet our hearts will stay near;

und alle, ja alle wird's freuen,  
 and we all will rejoice

Wenn einem was Gutes geschah! If something good happens to one of us.


Und kommen wir wieder zusammen  And should we come together again

Auf wechselnder Lebensbahn, 
on this varying road of life,

So knüpfen ans fröhliche Ende  We can link our happy ending

Den fröhlichen Anfang wir an9.  To our merry beginning.

No. 5 - In des Waldes düstern Gründen

This song, unlike the previous tunes varied by Kuhlau, does not come from a work from the stage, but the text is found as a robber’s song in the novel Rinaldo Rinaldini (1797) by Christian August Vulpius, an extremely popular work about medieval Italian banditti and their chief. It is found in published collections of folksongs from the early nineteenth century, but does not seem to have been the source of more elaborate settings.

Complete text:

In des Waldes düstern Gründen   In the dark recesses of the forest

in den Höhlen tief versteckt  hidden deep in the caves

ruht der allerkühnste Räuber    the most cunning of robbers rests,

bis ihn seine Rosa weckt.      Till his Rosa wakes him.


"Rinaldini", ruf sie schmeichelnd "Rinaldini“, she calls, in a flattering tone,

"Rinaldini, wache auf!" " Rinaldini, wake up!

Deine Leute sind schon munter   Your folk are already awake,

längst schon ging die Sonne auf."  And the sun has risen long since.“


Und er öffnet seine Augen  And he opens his eyes,

lächelt ihr den Morgengruß  smiles to her a morning greeting,

sie sinkt sanft in seine Arme  she sinks softly into his arms,

und erwidert seinen Kuss.  And responds to his kiss.


Draußen bellen laut die Hunde  Outside, the hounds bark loudly,

alles strömet hin und her! And run back and forth!

Jeder rüstet sich zum Streite Everyone prepares himself for battle,

ladet doppelt sein Gewehr.  And doubly loads his gun.


Und der Hauptmann, schön gerüstet   And the leader, well-equipped,

tritt nun mitten unter sie:  walks now among them:

"Guten Morgen, Kameraden!    "Good morning, comrades!

Sagt, was gibt´s denn schon so früh?"  Tell me, what is happening so early?“


"Unsere Feinde sind gerüstet   "Our enemies are prepared,

ziehen gegen uns heran."   And are moving against us.“

"Nun wohlan! Sie sollen sehen   "Well then! They will see that

dass der Waldsohn streiten kann."   The son of the forest can fight.“


"Lasst uns fallen oder siegen!" "May we win or die!“

Alle rufen: "Wohl es sei!"   All call: "May it be so!“

Und es tönen Berg und Wälder     And the mountains and forests

ringsherum vom Feldgeschrei.   Resound with battle cries.

Seht sie fechten, seht sie streiten!   See them fight, see them contend!

Jetzt verdoppelt sich ihr Mut!   And their courage is doubled.

Aber ach, sie müssen weichen,    Alas, they must give way,

und vergebens strömt ihr Blut   and their blood streams forth in vain.


Rinaldini, eingeschlossen,   Rinaldini, surrounded,

haut sich mutig kämpfend durch   cuts his way through with courage,

und erreicht im finstern Walde    and reaches an old mountain fortress

eine alte Felsenburg.   In the dark wood.


Zwischen hohen, düstern Mauern   Midst high, dark walls,

lächelt ihm der Liebe Glück   Love’s happiness smiles at him;

es erheitert seine Seele   his soul is refreshed

Dianorens Zauberblick.       By Dianora’s magic glance.


Rinaldini, lieber Räuber   Rinaldini, dear robber,

raubst den Schönen Herz und Ruh   you steal the hearts and peace of the beauteous,

ach wie schrecklich in dem Kampfe,    ah! You are terrible in battle,

wie verliebt im Schloss bist du!10 11 and beloved in the castle.

No. 8 - Was ist der Mensch?

This poem is incorrectly attributed to Schiller – its actual title is Menschenbestimmung, and it was published with a speech by the author, Joachim Lorenz Evers, in Altona in 1796 (the printed copy is held in the library of the Great Lodge in Hamburg).12 The earliest musical setting seems to be that of Ries, op. 7 no. 1, where the text is clearly attributed to Schiller.13

Complete text:

Was ist der Mensch? —halb Thier, halb Engel,   What is Man? Half beast, half angel,

klein, elend, dürftig, — herrlich, groß!    Small, miserable, needy – masterful, great!

was ist sein Schicksal? — tausend Mangel,   What is his destiny? A thousand shortcomings

und tausend Güter sind sein Loos.   And a thousand boons are his lot.

Ihm blühen manche sanfte" Freuden,   For him many soft joys bloom,

auch manche, die zu früh verdirbt;   and some, which die too soon;

ihn foltern schauervolle Leiden,     he is tortured by frightful woes,

er reift, wird alt, entnervt und stirbt.   He becomes mature, grows old and feeble, and dies.


Ich seh' der Schöpfung große Fülle,     I see the great fullness of creation,

erstaun' und sink' bewundernd hin —     I am astonished, and sink in admiration -

seh', daß ich, in der schönsten Hülle,     I see, that I, in the fairest garb,

der Erde erstes Wesen bin.   Am the first being of the Earth.

Schnell schafft die Phantasie mir Flügel,   Quickly my fantasy takes wing,

führt mich zu neuen Welten hin,   And carries me to new worlds,

und schnell bedeckt ein Erdenhügel   And soon I am covered by a hill of earth,

mich, der ich Staub vom Staube bin.—   For I am dust, and come from dust.


Unendlich viel — unglaublich, wenig —   Infinitely much, incredibly little

voll Schwachheit und voll Schöpfungskraft,   Full of weakness and of creative power,

der Meere und der Lander König,     King of seas and lands,

der Sklave jeder Leidenschaft!   And slave of every misery!

So siegt der Mensch zur stolzen Größe,   So man comes to proud greatness,

und trotzt Natur, und Zeit und Glück;   and defies nature, and time, and chance;

und sinkt in Fesseln, darbt in Blöße,     and sinks back in chains, starving, naked,

und setzt sich unter's Thier zurück.   And falls back beneath the beast.


Er predigt Weisheit, singt die Tugend,   He preaches wisdom, sings of virtue,

und drängt sich, Weihrauch ihr zu streun;   and impels himself to burn incense to it;

vergißt sich selbst, verschweigt die Jugend,   forgets himself, conceals his youth,

und schläft im Arm des Lasters ein —   and sleeps embraced in vice -

träumt glücklich sich und — öd' und wüste   dreams happily – dull and desolate,

erwackt er — schaudert und bereut,     he awakes – trembles and repents,

kämpft männlich gegen alle Lüste,   battles manfully against all temptations

und — fühlt sich voll Gebrechlichkeit.  And feels full of frailty.


Du Meisterstück aus Gottes Händen,   You masterpiece of God’s hands,

wär' dieß dein einzig Leben nur?     Is this then your only life?

sollt' deiner Schöpfung Zweck hier enden? Does the purpose of your creation end here?

bliebst du ein Räthsel der Natur?   Are you a riddle of nature?

Nein — Gott schuf dich für Ewigkeiten,   No – God created you for eternities,

für hsh'res Glück, für hell'res Licht,   for higher joy, for brighter light,

gab Mängel und Vollkommenheiten   gave shortcomings and boons

zur Prüfung dir, zum Unterricht.   To test you, as instruction.


Das Straucheln in den Jünglingsjahren   Stumblings in his years of youth

soll für den Mann Erfahrung seyn.   Should serve as experience for man.

Nur nach den größesten Gefahren    Only after the greatest of perils

kann Ruh' und Gluck uns ganz erfreut.   Can we be made happy by peace and happiness.

Wenn wir mit sehnsuchtsvollen Blicken   If we, with longing glances,

nach Wahrheit, Licht und Weisheit spähn,   look toward truth, light and wisdom,

dann erst fühlt unser Herz Entzücken,   then our heart first feels delight,

wenn wir sie ohne Täuschung sehn.   when we se it without illusion.


Dort, wo sich Heere Sonnen drehen,   There, where hosts of suns turn,

soll ich des Weltbau's Herrlichkeit,   I shall see the glory of the world’s construction,

soll ich des Schöpfers Größe sehen,   shall see the greatness of the creator;

umstrahlt mich Licht und Seligkeit;   Light and blessedness will stream about me;

der Nebel flieht, mein Blick wird heiter,   Mist flees, and my view becomes clear,

ich schau, was unerforschlich schien.     I see, what seemed unfathomable.

Mit Engelskräften eil' ich weiter - -   With the power of angels I hurry further - -

und Sonnen und Planeten fliehn14. And suns and planets flee.

No. 10 - On ne saurait trop embellir. Rondeau d’une folie (in smaller type).

This tune is taken from the opera Une Folie, music by the notable French composer Étienne Méhul, with libretto by Jean-Nicolas Boully, which was premiered at the Opéra-Comique National, on 15 Germinal An. X (in the standard reckoning, April 5, 1802. The opera was also known on the German-speaking stage variously as “Je Toller Je Besser”, “Je Toller Desto Besser”, or “List und Liebe” (the first two might be rendered in English as “The Crazier the Better”, and the latter “Madness and Love”). This was not the most well-known aria from the opera (this would have been the romance Je suis encore dans mon printemps, which was varied by composers including Hummel and Spohr - the variations for harp by Spohr seem to have achieved a secure place in the harp repertoire), but it was published as a separate item for voice and piano by Böhme in Hamburg in the first decade of the nineteenth century.

Complete text:

On ne saurait trop embellir    One can scarcely know how to over-embellish

Le court espace de la vie ;   Life’s brief span ;

Pour moi, je veux la parcourir   As for me, I would like to spend it

Avec l'Amour et la Folie.   With love and folly.


Du temps rapide qui s'enfuit    Nothing can escape the false, cruel one,

Rien n'échappe à la faux cruelle,     Time, which is so fleeting ;

Souvent il la frappe et détruit    Often it strikes and destroys

Jusqu'à la fleur la plus nouvelle.    Even the youngest flower.

On ne saurait trop embellir, etc.


Empressons-nous donc de jouir Let us hasten, then, to enjoy

Du charme heureux de la jeunesse ,   The happy charms of youth,

Et ménageons un souvenir   So that we may carry with us a souvenir

Qui vienne égayer la vieillesse.   Which may cheer our old age.


On ne saurait trop embellir    One can scarcely know how to over-embellish

Le court espace de la vie ;     Life’s brief span ;

Pour moi, je veux la parcourir   As for me, I would like to spend it

Avec l'Amour et la Folie15.    With love and folly.

No. 11 - Mich fliehen alle Freuden

This is drawn from the opera La Molinara of Paisiello (premiered Vienna, 1790), and is probably the most well-known of all the tunes chosen by Kuhlau. The original text began Nel cor più non mi sento. The German poem/translation is by Johann Abraham Peter Schulz (1747-1800), a student of Kirnberger who was a notable composer of songs, operas and church music. Other settings with variations for flute (solo, or with accompaniment) are those by Boehm, Drouet, Kohler and others; there are sets of piano variations by Beethoven, Czerny, Gabler, Gelinek and others.

Complete text:

Mich fliehen alle Freuden    All my joys have left me,

Ich sterb' vor Ungeduld,        I die for lack of patience,

An allen meinen Leiden   Love alone is guilty

Ist nur die Liebe schuld;    for all my woes;

Es quält und plagt mich immerhin,     It tortures and plagues me ever,

Ich weiß vor Angst nicht mehr wohin,     I know nothing but anxiety -

Wer hätte das gedacht?   Who would have thought it?

Die Liebe, ach, die Liebe      Love, ah, Love has

hat mich soweit gebracht!   Brought me to such a state!

Die Liebe, ach, die Liebe   Love, ah, Love has

hat mich soweit gebracht!   Brought me to such a state!


Ich weiß wohl was mir fehlet,     I well know what I am lacking,

Ich sterbe fast vor Leid.   And I am almost dying of woe.

Was mich am Herzen quälet,     It is your inconstancy

Ist deine Sprödigkeit,   which tortures my heart,

Du drehst dich nach dem Winde,   You turn like the wind,

Tust wie ein Wetterhahn,       just like a weathervane,

D'rum komm', mein Kind, geschwinde    So come quickly, my child

Die Liebe, ach, die Liebe!   Love, ah love,

Die Lieb' ist schuld daran!     Love is guilty of this!

Die Liebe, ach, die Liebe!     Love, ah love,

Die Lieb' ist schuld daran!16 Love is guilty of this!


1.  http://www.kb.dk/en/nb/samling/ma/digmus/1800/kuhlau.html

2. Kuhlau, Variations et Caprices, op. 10 (bis), Winterthur: Amadeus, 1981.

3. Ed. Jane Rausch, translated from the German by Laszlo and Doris Tikos. Warren, Michigan: Harmonie Park Press, 2000. Op. 10b is discussed on pp. 11-12.

4. Le secret, : comédie en un acte et en prose mêlée de musique. : Représentée sur le Théâtre de l'Opéra-Comique, ci-devant Théâtre Italien, le 1er floréal, l'an IV (20 avril 1796, vieux style). Libretto held at the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in Den Haag.

5. http://ublib.buffalo.edu/libraries/units/music/spcoll/libmus017_fvm255.pdf

6. Almost a dozen are listed here - http://chansmac.ifrance.com/docs/prof/solie.html

7. http://www.dr.dk/Tema/frimurer/Alle+artikler/20070501151504.htm

8. http://chansmac.ifrance.com/docs/prof/solie.html

9. http://www.gedichte.co/kot_a.html

10. http://www.volksliederarchiv.de/text1307.html

11. http://books.google.com/books?id=Kko7AAAAcAAJ&dq=vulpius%20rinaldo%20rinaldini%20%22in%20des%20waldes%22&pg=PA18#v=onepage&q&f=false

12. Google Books August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben, Unsere volkstümlichen Lieder

13. http://www.slub-dresden.de/sammlungen/digitale-sammlungen/werkansicht/cache.off?tx_dlf%5Bid%5D=14619&tx_dlf%5Bpointer%5D=0&tx_dlf%5Bpage%5D=1&cHash=5a2314a1af3a306d94505d9615e9865e

14. Google Books Vollständiges Gesangbuch für Freimaurer, Berlin: Friedrich Maurer, 1819.

15. http://www.archive.org/stream/chansonsnationa00sggoog/chansonsnationa00sggoog_djvu.txt

Chansons nationales et populaires de France, accompagnées de notes historiques et littéraires (1866)

16. http://www.liedtexte.eu/liebesgedichte/mich-fliehen-alle-freuden.htm

Tom MooreTom Moore is a journalist, musician, and translator living in Rio de Janeiro. He has recorded Telemann for Lyrichord (USA) and Boismortier for A Casa Discos (Brazil). He writes about music for BrazilMax, Musica Brasileira, 21st Century Music, Opera Today, Flute Talk, Sonograma, Early Music America, and other venues.