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Ludwig van Beethoven: Bagatelles

Beethoven’s Bagatelles (or “Kleinigkeiten”, “Small Things”) were published in three stages, the second and third sets some twenty years after the first. The dates of publication, however, doesn’t necessarily say everything about the time of composition of the individual pieces – research into Beethoven´s sketch books has shown that ideas from widely divergent periods are given form in the Bagatelles.
The pieces present a meaning-charged musical idea in a small, terse, even fragmentary, form. They probably disappointed many of Beethoven’s contemporaries, who expected works on a grander scale with much better “classical balance” from such a great composer. Nevertheless, their contribution to the development of piano music in the 19th century cannot be overestimated.

Sheet Music Downloads:

TitleASTKey Published Type Level
Bagatelle, WoO 56 C Major 1804 Piece 4
Bagatelle Op. 119 No. 1G Minor 1822 Piece 6
Bagatelle Op. 119 No. 2C Major 1822 Piece 7
Bagatelle Op. 119 No. 3D Major 1822 Piece 7
Bagatelle Op. 119 No. 4A Major 1822 Piece 6
Bagatelle Op. 119 No. 5C Minor 1822 Piece 6
Bagatelle Op. 119 No. 6G Major 1822 Piece 7
Bagatelle Op. 119 No. 7C Major 1822 Piece 8
Bagatelle Op. 119 No. 8C Major 1822 Piece 7
Bagatelle Op. 119 No. 9A Minor 1822 Piece 6
Bagatelle Op. 119 No. 10A Major 1822 Piece 4
Bagatelle Op. 119 No. 11B-flat Major 1822 Piece 7
Bagatelle Op. 126 No. 1G Major 1824 Piece 7
Bagatelle Op. 126 No. 2G Minor 1824 Piece 7
Bagatelle Op. 126 No. 3E-flat Major 1824 Piece 7
Bagatelle Op. 126 No. 4B Minor 1824 Piece 6
Bagatelle Op. 126 No. 5G Major 1824 Piece 5
Bagatelle Op. 126 No. 6E-flat Major 1824 Piece 6

Posts in the piano forum about Bagatelles by Beethoven:

xx 3/8 andantes in Beethoven Bagatelles
December 31, 2010, 10:35:28 PM by peterl

Op. 126 numbers 3 and 6 are marked andante in 3/8.  My understanding is that classical period 3/8  should be counted in one, and that the tempo indication always refers to the basic pulse.  That would give us something like 180-200 quavers to the minute, which sounds impossibly fast (especially with the  demisemiquavers in number 3). 

So what do the HIP enthusiasts say about these?  Is there any serious argument for considering such fast tempos?   Before saying "of course not, it sounds horrible" let's remember Norrington's recording of the Ninth, or Andras Schiff's first movement of Op. 27/2 - not to everyone's taste (certainly not mine) but they do have considered arguments to justify their unusual tempos.

xx Roland Pöntinen
August 20, 2008, 08:47:33 PM by lelle

What do you think of this pianist? I just discovered him, and as usual when I discover something exciting I have to share it with everyone!

I am going to start the Eleven Bagatelles by Beethoven, so I searched youtube for them and then stumbled upon Pöntinens recording... amazing!


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