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Ludwig van Beethoven

Actually, Beethoven's diminutive work for piano in B flat major, catalogued as "WoO. 60," was published with the simple title "Clavierstück" (Piano Piece), not "Bagatelle."

On Beethoven's manuscript is the inscription, in Beethoven's hand, "Written upon request on the afternoon of August 14, 1818 by Beethoven." Added to the inscription, in another hand, is "written upon the request of a woman unknown to him." Some have suggested this woman was Marie Szymanowska, a Polish pianist, although no one is really sure who she was, or even if the additional inscription should be taken seriously.

Whatever its origin, the Clavierstücke, WoO. 60, was first published in the December 8, 1824 supplement of the Berliner allgemeine musikalische Zeitung. In 1840, the Berlin publisher Schlesinger printed the work with the inexplicable title, "Dernière pensée musicale" (Last Musical Thought). Although it was certainly not Beethoven's last musical thought, the Clavierstück in B flat is one of his more humorous piano works, composed while he was in the midst of the custody battle over his nephew.

In terms of thematic material, the Clavierstück, WoO. 60, is in a modified ternary, or ABA', form. Harmonically, however, it is unusual. The opening theme consists of a repeated two-measure segment that stops on the dominant each time. What follows, however, is not the tonic, B flat major, but a five-measure segment that moves to the dominant of D flat major, the key of the contrasting B section. Furthermore, the non-thematic sixteenth notes act as a transition to the central section, making D flat sound like the key Beethoven has been heading toward all along. After the reprise of the A section begins, the material is altered to focus on F major, the dominant of B flat, a harmony that does not appear until the penultimate measure.