No 1 in E flat major: Andante grazioso, quasi allegretto
No 2 in C major: Scherzo. Allegro – Trio
No 3 in F major: Allegretto
No 4 in A major: Andante
No 5 in C major: Allegro ma non troppo
No 6 in D major: Allegretto quasi andante
No 7 in A flat major: Presto
The spasmodic rhythm of the C major No 2, with its off-beat accents in the right hand and timpani thuds in the left, is soon offset by a smooth and shadowy section in the minor, with fleeting left-hand triplets. This, however, turns out not to be the real trio, which, when it arrives, features staccato ascending scales in thirds.
The following number, in F major, is a gentle piece in pastoral style whose theme has a second half that charmingly echoes the first from a comparatively distant D major. Much more incisive is the fifth Bagatelle, which has lightning-quick semiquaver triplets for both hands which are continued by the left hand beneath the broader melody of the minor-mode middle section. The last piece of the series is a dazzling Presto in the expanded scherzo form, with the trio appearing twice between three statements of the scherzo itself, that came to be a hallmark of Beethoven’s symphonic style from the Razumovsky string quartets Op 59 and the Fourth Symphony onwards.
The two jewels of the set are, perhaps, the much more relaxed and lyrical fourth and sixth numbers. The melody in the first of these is inextricably woven into the two upper strands of the texture, but towards the end it moves down into the bass, and then into the tenor voice. As for the sixth Bagatelle, Beethoven wanted its gentle melody played with a speech-like quality. Following an embellished version of the melody which is in essence a variation, the piece comes to a close with chains of slowly descending thirds above a syncopated pedal-note that moves progressively downwards by octaves, allowing the music to fade away into the distance, in a pastoral atmosphere.
from notes by Misha Donat © 2012