Listening to Beethoven #105 – Sonatina for mandolin and piano in C minor WoO 43a


Jean-Baptiste Krumpholz, brother of Wendel Krumpholz, a violin and mandolin-playing friend of Beethoven in Vienna.

Sonatina in C minor for mandolin and piano, WoO 43a (1796, Beethoven aged 25)

Dedication Joséphine de Clary
Duration 4′

Listen

Background and Critical Reception

Beethoven’s first two works for mandolin and piano, a C major Sonatina and the Andante con Variazoni, bear the publishing imprint WoO (work without opus) 44. The next two carry the number 43, but are thought to have been revised versions of pieces he started in Vienna, presumably for his friend Wenzel Krumpholz.

Beethoven’s mandolin music is not generally regarded as great, though it should be said his contemporaries, among them Hummel, were writing for the instrument around the same time. This Sonatina is of a similar length to its C major counterpart but uses the minor key. Despite that the music is more for private use than a work like the Piano Trio in C minor, the third of the Op.1 set.

Thoughts

The musical language is much more serious in this Sonatina compared to the previous one – though with the tones of the mandolin it does sound much more tongue in cheek. Soon the music shifts from the minor key to the major and it feels like all is well – but it is not long before Beethoven returns to the opening material, and the faces straighten once again.

There is a mournful, almost funereal air to the main theme if it is played slowly, but ultimately the colours are too light for it to linger.

Recordings used and Spotify links

Anna Torge (mandolin) and Gerald Hambitzer (fortepiano)

Alon Sariel (mandolin) and Michael Tsalka (fortepiano)

Julien Martineau (mandolin) and Vanessa Benelli Mosell (piano)

Alon Sariel and Michael Tsalka are quite deliberate in their account, especially at the end. Julien Martineau and Vanessa Benelli Mosell play the outer sections with tremolo at a very slow tempo, making the piece sound much more of a lament. Their central section has an appealing, graceful character. Anna Torge and Gerald Hambitzer take a similar approach.

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 1796 GyrowetzString Quartet in E flat major Op.13/3

Next up Adagio for Mandolin and Piano WoO43b

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