Listening to Beethoven #141 – La tiranna WoO 125

Peanuts comic strip, drawn by Charles M. Schulz (c)PNTS

La Tiranna WoO 125 for voice and piano (1799, Beethoven aged 28)

Dedication not known
Text Anon, translated William Wennington

Duration 3′


Background and Critical Reception

This work is described by Susan Youens as a ‘song-aria’, published in London at the end of 1799. William Wennington, who appears to have been in Vienna towards the end of 1798, translated the text from English into Italian. Youens suggests Beethoven probably made his acquaintance, and ‘acceded to his request to set this dramatic lament about unrequited love.’

Youens writes of how ‘Beethoven makes the piano part froth and foam in such a way as to display his own pianism’.


There is quite a substantial piano introduction to this song before the high voice appears, using a more operatic profile than what we have been used to in the songs so far from Beethoven.

The writing is more descriptive, the piano more independent of the vocal line as it sets the scene. The vocal is floated, the piano flowing but adding comments of its own inbetween. in the tempestuous middle section the melody has a curious premonition of The Phantom of the Opera.

Recording used and Spotify link

John Mark Ainsley (baritone), Iain Burnside (piano)

Pamela Coburn & Leonard Hokanson


You can chart the Arcana Beethoven playlist as it grows, with one recommended version of each piece we listen to. Catch up here!

Also written in 1799 Salieri Falstaff o sia Le tre burle

Next up Neue Liebe, neues Leben, WoO 127

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