"There is a wealth of history in the very first melody that floats from the lips of the Three Boys, "Zum Ziele führt dich diese Bahn". This calm, stately trio can be traced back to an old song Die Katze lässt das Mausen nicht which, as far as we know, first appears in print in Part 2 of the so-called Augsburger Tafelkonfekt of 1737. It may also be found, slightly modified, in the final chorus of [J. S.] Bach's "Coffee Cantata", and unmistakably adorns the Rondo of Beethoven's Piano Concerto in C, Op. 15. Wyzewa remakrs that Mozart himself had used it...as the main theme of the finale of the Divertimento in E-flat (K. 252); it also appears in a brisk version as the main subject of the Rondo of his Concerto for Two Pianos (K. 365, III: passim.
--A. Hyatt King, "The Melodic Sources and Affinities of Die Zauberflöte, The Musical Quarterly, Vol. XXXVI, No. 2, April, 1950, p. 241.
T: Die Katz die lässt das Mausen nicht
C:fragment of German Melody
c f>e^ f g | e^>d c c f e^ f g | e^3 ||
The question of whether this copying would be actionable under current U.S. law is relevant, but not the most important, since if there is no public domain whatever, any copying might be found by some judge somewhere as actionable sooner or later, because outside the very vague boundaries of idea/expression and fair use.
To play or display ABC tunes, try concertina.net