Hyperion Records

Seven Bagatelles, Op 33
composer
published in 1803

Recordings
'Beethoven: Bagatelles' (CDA67879)
Beethoven: Bagatelles
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'Eileen Joyce – The complete Parlophone & Columbia solo recordings' (APR7502)
Eileen Joyce – The complete Parlophone & Columbia solo recordings
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Details
No 1 in E flat major: Andante grazioso, quasi allegretto
No 2 in C major: Scherzo. Allegro – Trio
Track 2 on CDA67879 [3'11]
Track 21 on APR7502 CD4 [3'18] 5CDs Download only
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

Seven Bagatelles, Op 33
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Beethoven composed bagatelles, or what he called Kleinigkeiten (‘trifles’), for piano throughout his career. He kept a collection of them in a folder, awaiting a time when he could prepare them for publication, and the first volume of such pieces to appear in print was issued in 1803, as his Op 33. It included items that went right back to the composer’s early years in Bonn; and in attempting to pinpoint a date for the first piece in the series he optimistically assigned it to the year 1782. He would have been a boy of twelve at the time, and he is unlikely to have sanctioned its publication so many years later without at least having revised it thoroughly. Perhaps the intricate, improvisatory runs that embellish the main theme (they become more elaborate with each appearance) were a later addition. Certainly, the rushing scale fragments that herald each return of the theme mirror the type of nervously abrupt style Beethoven cultivated in the mid-1790s.

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

Track-specific metadata
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Details for CDA67879 track 4
No 4 in A major: Andante
Artists
ISRC
GB-AJY-12-87904
Duration
3'23
Recording date
28 July 2011
Recording venue
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Andrew Keener
Recording engineer
Simon Eadon
Hyperion usage
  1. Beethoven: Bagatelles (CDA67879)
    Disc 1 Track 4
    Release date: May 2012
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