The text of "La Tiranna" was translated from the Italian into English by William Wennington and set to music by Beethoven. This canzonetta was first published in London in 1799, dating the composition, in all probability, to that same or the previous year. It seems that Wennington was a musician of lesser rank, but quite a skilled translator. (He also translated from German to English with considerable skill.) He departed England around 1797 and eventually made his way to Vienna. There he became an acquaintance of Prince Karl Lichnowski, a patron and friend of Beethoven. Wennington must have met the composer in 1798, and out of their relationship came this little song.
It is unusual in at least one respect--the piano writing is quite difficult, conceived not so much as accompaniment as an equal partner to the vocal line in this work. Indeed, the title page contains the description, " ... Canzonetta / for the Pianoforte ... "
The style of the song is rather typical of Beethoven from near the turn of the nineteenth century. The words, "Ah grief to think ... ", that open it, set the mood of this stormy, yet graceful piece. While the music is serious, its overall treatment is light. In the end, it is an attractive song, both for its vocal and keyboard writing.