Beethoven and his Contemporaries
Beethoven: Andante con variazione in D major, WoO 44/b; Sonatina in C major, WoO 44/a; Sonatina in C minor, WoO 43/a; Adagio ma non troppo in E flat major, WoO 43/b; Bortolazzi: Sonata in D major, Op. 9; Hummel: Grande Sonata in C major, Op. 37a
Raffaele La Ragione (Brescian mandolin), Marco Crosetto (fortepiano)
Arcana A117 50:02 mins
Not a few neglected Beethoven scores are being dusted down in this, his 250th anniversary year, but who knew that in his 20s he wrote five short works for mandolin and fortepiano? Four of them were composed for the young Countess Clary Clam-Gallas, who played the instrument – as many in Vienna then did.
It was doubtless this popularity that drew the Italian-born mandolin virtuoso Bartolomeo Bortolazzi to Vienna in 1801 from London where he had already elicited the Grande Sonata in C, Op. 37a from Johann Nepomuk Hummel. This, together with four of the Beethoven pieces and Bortolazzi’s own Sonata in D, Op. 9 make up this vividly performed and recorded disc by Raffaele La Ragione on the Brescian mandolin, most likely deployed for this repertoire, and the fortepianist Marco Crosetto.
If the Bortolazzi Sonata is essentially an amiable medley of tunes and passage-work, the Hummel is a more ambitious and wide-ranging three-movement structure (he was also to write a full-scale concerto for Bortolazzi). By comparison, the Beethoven Sonatinas in C major and C minor are modest one-movement pieces, though the Adagio ma non troppo in E flat is more sustained while the bouncy Andante con variazioni in D runs to an unexpectedly soulful minor key variation just before its coda.