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Six Bagatelles, Op 126
published by Schott & Co in November 1824

'Beethoven: Bagatelles' (CDA67879)
Beethoven: Bagatelles
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No 1 in G major: Andante con moto
No 2 in G minor: Allegro
No 3 in E flat major: Andante
No 4 in B minor: Presto
No 5 in G major: Quasi allegretto
No 6 in E flat major: Presto – Andante amabile e con moto – Tempo I

Six Bagatelles, Op 126
The Six Bagatelles of Op 126 formed Beethoven’s last work for piano. When he offered it to the publishers Schott & Co. in November 1824, together with the Consecration of the House Overture Op 124, he described the pieces as ‘6 Bagatelles or Trifles for solo piano, some of which are rather more developed and probably the best pieces of this kind I have written.’ This is, in fact, music that already belongs to the spiritual world of the late string quartets Beethoven began composing in its wake.

Unlike the composer’s previous sets of Bagatelles, the six new pieces were clearly designed to form a unified cycle from the outset. They are alternately lyrical and introspective, and fast and dramatic, with the two threads drawn together in the final number; and their keys form a descending chain of thirds, beginning in G major and minor, and ending in E flat major. Throughout the set Beethoven treats his material with remarkable freedom, transforming it through intricate ornamentation, as in No 3, or by altering its register—whether downwards into the bass (as in Nos 1 and 6), or upwards (No 5). The final Bagatelle is framed by the identical abrupt passage in Presto tempo, which serves with impeccable logic as both a beginning and an ending. Between the prelude and postlude there unfolds a leisurely and expansive Andante which offers the strongest possible contrast, while at the same time beginning in the nature of a slow-motion account of the material that surrounds it. The reprise of the opening Presto seems to dismiss out of hand the profoundly expressive world of the music that has preceded it—a typically gruff gesture, and an altogether appropriate way for Beethoven to bow out as a composer of piano music.

from notes by Misha Donat © 2012

Track-specific metadata
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Details for CDA67879 track 21
No 3 in E flat major: Andante
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 21
    Release date: May 2012
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