Ludwig van Beethoven: Adagio for mandolin and piano in E major, WoO 43b – Sonatina for mandolin and piano in C minor, WoO 43a – Sonatina for mandolin and piano in C major, WoO44a – Andante and Variations for mandolin and piano in D, WoO44b – Symphony n° 7, opus 92: “Allegretto” (arr. H. Sitt) 
Corentin Apparailly: Lettre à l’immortelle bien-aimée
Fritz Kreisler: Rondo on a theme by Beethoven
Walter Murphy: A Fifth of Beethoven (arr. B. Fontaine) 
Julien Martineau (mandolin), Vanessa Benelli Mosell (piano), Yann Dubost (double bass) [1,2], José Fillatreau (drums) 
Recording: Auditorium Saint-Pierre-des-Cuisines, Toulouse, France (September 17-19, 2019) – 58’20
Naïve V 7083 – Booklet in French and English
The CD’s title is somewhat of a misnomer. While Beethoven is situated front and center, other composers’ works are included having a direct or indirect connection upon the German and the mandolin. Setting that aside, the spotlight turns to duo Julien Martineau and Vanessa Benelli Mosell who demonstrate two instruments’ integration by returning to the past while adapting variant conversations of a contemporary nature. The investment is richly superlative.
Many people forget Beethoven as a composer for mandolin. Naïve has captured four (those that survived) out of the six mandolin compositions, each yielding templates of steely sonority. The first two opening pieces, Adagio, WoO 43b and Sonatina, WoO 43a give more passive grounding to Mlle Benelli Mosell while M. Martineau delivers a lyrical response in the top register. It’s not until the ensuing Sonatina WoO 44a that the piano is granted more limelight and has more prominence in administering support on the forefront. The Allegretto dazzles in stunning craftsmanship. The introductory “Andante” tees up as a preamble upon which the following six variations boldly prevail with differing layers of character.
The classical world frequently overlooks and underestimates œuvres by Johann Nepomuk Hummel, but whenever the name appears, it’s definitely a treat to fête and to explore. The Austrian’s Grand Sonata, a treasured three-movement, has a catalytic spark the moment the piece begins. Super technical with uncanny ornamentation, Martineau’s and Benelli Mosell’s spirited integration is absolutely seamless...ironically enough (sorry Beethoven), this has to be the apex gem on this release.
Turning to the present, one of the founders of Quatuor Arod, Corentin Apparailly chose to branch out into composition, and here we experience the premiere of his new Lettre with deeply-soaked Italianate melodramatic writing. M. Apparailly’s music is intriguing, even giving hints of a Moorish grab.
Walter Murphy’s 20th century transcriptional statement, unfortunately, seems to shatter the decorum so nicely congealed up to this point: It’s as if we turn back the time machine to 1981 and K-tel’s Hooked on Classics. Sadly, the elegance evaporates. Alas!
The jewel on this CD is the mandolin, yet the confluence with Vanessa Benelli Mosell’s piano creates an imposing stature. Julien Martineau’s passion digs deeply into the soul, but it’s no surprise since the master has heavily invested in the manufacturing of the instrument. Specifically, his energies have partnered with Savarez, one of the leaders in guitar strings, to develop technological enhancements in the wires. These material innovations act as one of the keys to an immense performance. Such classy and glossy plinks strike on all fronts...liken it to a knife cutting through liquid glass with one-hundred percent transparency. The ear craves for more.
Camille de Rijck’s English write-up has confusing sentence construction, and the content format is unwieldly. The overall presentation jumps all “over the place” and is a tedious read. This, unfortunately, diminishes the overall clarity of the music presented.
The mandolin should be reserved for a certain niche in time with results of lasting permanency. It has sacred grounds. Maintaining traditional boundaries and conservancy would prove a more prudent tactic, but “Beethoven Suites” tries to be “all things to all people”, and the illustrious attempt reverses itself.