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 reproductions at that time does, however, reveal that
they were very popular right from the beginning.