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His sonatas and sonatinas are not difficult and offer musical an excellent training ground for the more challenging works of Beethoven. Yet his music can also stand on its own, as his Piano Concerto in C, from , and many other solo keyboard works amply demonstrate.
Kuhlau wrote operas and other dramatic works, most of which are finely crafted; the best of them fully on the level of his piano music. His father was a musician in a military band, and of necessity often had to relocate his family.
At 14, he finished his schooling in Brunswick at the Katharineum-gymnasium, and having shown unusual musical talent throughout his childhood, he began composition studies in Hamburg with Schwenke. Over the next several years, Kuhlau composed some songs and chamber music, and in began regularly appearing as a concert pianist. Many of his works at this time and throughout his whole career were written for flute, and for years it was believed that Kuhlau was himself a fine flutist.
He could not play the instrument, however, but wrote works for it to earn money. In , Kuhlau traveled to Copenhagen to flee the invading troops of Napoleon. He had completed his Piano Concerto earlier that year and his performances of it helped him obtain an appointment as a non-salaried musician in the Danish Court in He supported himself by giving recitals and teaching music.
Around this time, his parents and younger sister joined him, all of whom he had to support. After taking a high-paying post as singing teacher at the Royal Theater in the years , Kuhlau left it, eventually obtaining another with the Court, which required him to compose works occasionally. One of them would be his opera The Magic Harp, which was a failure owing mainly to its controversial libretto. His next opera, Elisa , fared as poorly.
Kuhlau traveled to Vienna in for four months and in , at which time he befriended Beethoven. The year before, his opera Lulu had premiered in Hamburg with great success.
Still supporting his parents, he worked diligently, turning out another opera in , Hugo and Adelheid, which failed. In , Kuhlau was given an honorary professorship that yielded substantial remuneration for him.
A series of tragedies ensued: Kuhlau lost both parents in , and the following year his house burned down, the composer suffering a resultant chest ailment that afflicted him until his death.
Kuhlau: Sonatina Op. 20 No. 1 in C Major
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Sonatina in C major sheet music for piano
Free Piano Sheet Music – Sonatina Op. 55, No. 1 – Kuhlau