Tablet - Portrait

Tablet - Landscape


Ludwig van Beethoven

The date of composition of the Bagatelles, Op. 119 given in the headnote (1822) refers to the date of their completion. It is generally believed that a few of them date back to the 1790s, perhaps to as early as 1793. Some of these Bagatelles in their original sketch form may have been intended as movements for a piano sonata, while others may have had roots in other projected keyboard compositions before Beethoven shelved them. Most of the pieces are worthwhile, even if as a group they seem an odd assemblage.

The first Bagatelle, marked Allegretto, is a charming minuet, possibly originally dating back to the beginning of the nineteenth century. No. 8 is also a minuet, but of a less lively, more subtle character. It is among the more compelling items in the set. The second Bagatelle (Andante con moto) features an attractive, lyrical melody that might have started out as a song. The same might also be said about No. 4, also an Andante (cantabile). The Sixth is a lighthearted Scherzo (after an opening Andante) that might have fit well in one of the earlier sonatas. No. 7, marked Allegro ma non troppo, features a colorful display of the use of trills, and the Ninth (Vivace moderato) is a somewhat unsettled, if not unsettling, waltz. The Eleventh, marked Andante ma non troppo, sounds like a late work. Its straightforward thematic and harmonic wares reveal subtlety and simple charm, as well as a maturity and mastery of form. This piece provides a most effective close to this varied collection.

Because Nos. 7 through 11 were published in 1821, two years before the entire set, one might surmise that Beethoven favored them over those in the first half of the collection. Indeed, the latter five are the better compositions, and offer the potential listener a more rewarding experience.