Beethoven Complete Bagatelles

 
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Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Hyperion Records CDA67879 | 67'02

Beethoven wrote his Op 119 Bagatelles – 11 short pieces each lasting no more than a minute or two – when he was working on two of his biggest works: the Missa Solemnis and the Ninth Symphony. His Leipzig publisher complained that they were such insignificant trifles no one would believe they were by Beethoven: not only slight but on the whole easy too.

The joy of having a player of Steven Osborne's spare, rhythmically incisive brilliance shows the idiocy of the publisher's words. These pieces, together with the early Op 33 and – his last work for piano – the Op 126 display Beethoven's genius for creating artistic grandeur from the most miniature of pianistic forms.
— The Observer

Steven Osborne's new CD of the Bagatelles, recorded last July with all the artistry and attention you expect from Hyperion, catches all the whimsy that Beethoven's title suggest. The Scottish pianist skims over the keys in the shortest number - the 11 seconds of Opus 119 no 10 - yet, when the composer lays on a flurry of incident, he is ingenious at making it hang together. The dotted rhythms of Op 33 no 2 seem to suggest white-hot keys; for the interludes in between, Osborne balances ambling folkiness with mock serioso intent.

You can hear Beethoven laughing here, whether in the gruff octaves and counterpoint of Op 126 no 4, or in the many others in which textures chop and change so unpredictably that it all borders on collage. Here we see Beethoven the improv meister of his time, and Osborne conveys all the excitement that comes with such scattergun invention, cleverly using pedal to suggest that simple harmonies might not be as straightforward as they seem.

One of my favourites is the Landler of Opus 119 no 8, a Landler innocent on the surface but harbouring enough slippery key changes to fuel a few pages of Wagner.
This album comes with two bonuses. One is a half-dozen works without opus number, including an enigmatic 31-second Allegro quasi Andanteand the popular Fur Elise, delivered with a telling simplicity.

The other bonus is the booklet illustration. Paul Klee's 1930 House on the Water is perfect, echoing the sometimes radical music of another age in its subtle colour shifts and geometric play.
— The New Zealand Herald

This disc follows on from his one of Beethoven sonatas, and it ignites a similar joy in the way that he conveys ideas so lucidly and with such subtle shades of tone, distilling the essence of each miniature with potency and freshness.
— The Telegraph


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Tracklisting

Seven Bagatelles op.33
No 1 in E flat major: Andante grazioso, quasi allegretto
No 2 in C major: Scherzo. Allegro – Trio
No 3 in F major: Allegretto
No 4 in A major: Andante
No 5 in C major: Allegro ma non troppo
No 6 in D major: Allegretto quasi andante
No 7 in A flat major: Presto

Eleven Bagatelles Op 119
No 1 in G minor: Allegretto
No 2 in C major: Andante con moto
No 3 in D major: À l'Allemande
No 4 in A major: Andante cantabile
No 5 in C minor: Risoluto
No 6 in G major: Andante – Allegretto
No 7 in C major: Allegro ma non troppo
No 8 in C major: Moderato cantabile
No 9 in A minor: Vivace moderato
No 10 in A major: Allegramente
No 11 in B flat major: Andante ma non troppo

Six Bagatelles Op 126
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

Allegretto quasi andante in G minor WoO61a
Bagatelle in C major WoO56
Bagatelle in C minor WoO52
Bagatelle in B flat major WoO60
Allegretto in B minor WoO61
Klavierstück in A minor 'Für Elise' WoO59

 
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