Tablet - Portrait

Tablet - Landscape


Ludwig van Beethoven

This is the last and probably finest of the three sets of Bagatelles Beethoven wrote. In general, the six works comprising the collection are not as light as those in the earlier sets and the three lone Bagatelles without opus numbers. That said, the opening piece in Op. 126 is decidedly pleasant and light. Marked Andante con moto, it is a mostly serene work whose joyous main theme exudes a sense of self-confidence. Textures lighten in the latter part of the work, as the music takes on an almost angelic glow, heralding the incandescent close of the composer's last piano sonata. The Bagatelle No. 2 in G minor contrasts with the opening work in both its livelier Allegro tempo and somewhat anxious mood. Still, the ambivalent main theme here never tilts toward the dark side in its mixture of the stormy and playful, of the anxious and the delicate. The Bagatelle No. 3 in E flat major, marked Andante, is tranquil in its serenity and grandeur, its theme noble and clearly looking toward the nascent Romantic movement. Does this work augur the mood, perhaps even the keyboard writing, in the middle movement of Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 1? The Bagatelle No. 4 in B minor is a Presto filled with angst in its driving rhythms and heroic, stormy main theme. An alternate melody in the upper register, also lively and energetic, exhibits a measure of calm and gracefulness, and on its second appearance closes out this anxious piece in a relatively subdued mood. The G major No. 5, marked Quasi Allegretto, provides stark contrast to the preceding Bagatelle in its serene, dreamy, and consistently gentle manner. While it offers few technical challenges to the pianist, it will present sufficient interpretive ones. The concluding Bagatelle in E flat major is marked Presto -- Andante amabile e con moto, and begins with a surge of swirling currents that quickly turn tame for the introduction of the dreamy main theme. The music gradually becomes more animated, prodded by elements from the opening, and the theme exhibits a deeper expressive manner in its mixture of heroism and serenity. The opening surge mischievously returns to close out this masterpiece.