Beethoven's Sonatina

David Grisman

Ludwig Van Beethoven is a name familiar to all music lovers, but did you know that he played the mandolin? During the ten years from 1790-1800, when he was between 20 and 30 years of age, Beethoven was associated with several fine mandolin compositions that have been recorded by many mandolinists, such as Maria Scivittaro from Italy. One of his best friends, Wenzel Krumpholz, was a mandolin virtuoso.

In 1795, Beethoven wrote two compositions for mandolin with keyboard accompaniment: Sonatina in C Minor, with "Adagio" in Eb major; and Sonatina in C major, with "Theme And Variations" in D major, the first part of which is shown in the music below.

This music was original!y written for the Lombardian, or Milanese, mandolin. It had six single gut strings that were tuned as follows (low to high): G-D-A-E-B-G. The Sonatina has been recorded by many mandolinist: Maria Scivittaro from Italy on Mandolin Music (Nonesuch Records [962 N. La Cienega, Los Angeles, CA90069], H-71227); Mike Melfordon Mandolin Fantasy (Flying Fish Records FF-023); and Hugo D'Alton from England, who played the original Milanese instrument on The Classical Mandolin (Saga Records [326 Kensal Rd., London W10 5BL], Saga 5350), to name just a few. I used this first part of the Piece as an introduction to my tune, "Bow Wow" from "David Grisman, Quintet '80".

For some additional pinky training, play all the open E notes on the A string at the 7th fret. I'll give you part two of the tune in an upcoming article.


Copyright 1981 David Grisman. Used by permission. All rights reserved.