Among the treasures hidden in Beethoven’s obscure music composed for mandolin and harpsichord, none can compare with the sublime richness of this Adagio in E-flat Major, WoO 43b. For six magical minutes, Beethoven tapped into the vein of inspired simplicity that one usually associates with late Mozart.
How could such exquisite music lie in obscurity, one wonders? It is my conviction that the instruments Beethoven selected, charming as they may be, can only hint at this music’s lyrical and emotional qualities. The lovely melody that Beethoven gave to the mandolin stretches the limits of cantabile and the long line. The expressive harmonies in the harpsichord accompaniment call for a dulcet sostenuto texture that is foreign to the percussive sonority of this instrument.
In my view, the flute and the string orchestra have the requisite technical resources, sonorities and expressive qualities to bring out the extraordinary beauty hidden in these notes.
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