Bagatelles, Op. 126 (Beethoven)
Ludwig van Beethoven's Bagatelles, Op. 126, dedicated to his brother Johann van Beethoven, were published late in his career, in the year 1825. A bagatelle, in Beethoven's usage, is a kind of brief character piece.
The set comprises six short works, as follows:
- Andante con moto, Cantabile e compiacevole, G major, 3/4 time
- Allegro, G minor, 2/4
- Andante, Cantabile e grazioso, E flat major, 3/4
- Presto, B minor, cut time
- Quasi allegretto, G major, 6/8
- Presto, cut time then Andante amabile e con moto, E flat major, 3/8
In prefatory remarks to his edition of the works, Otto von Irmer notes that Beethoven intended the six bagatelles be played in order as a single work, at least insofar as this can be inferred from a marginal annotation Beethoven made in the manuscript: "Ciclus von Kleinigkeiten" (cycle of little pieces). Lewis Lockwood suggests another reason to regard the work as a unity rather than a collection: starting with the second Bagatelle, the keys of the pieces fall in a regular succession of descending major thirds, a pattern Lockwood also notices in Beethoven's "Eroica" Symphony and the String Quartet, Op. 127.
Maurice J. E. Brown, writing in the Grove Dictionary, says of the Bagatelles that they "are thoroughly typical of their composer and show affinities with the greater instrumental works written at the same time." Some possible such affinities are as follows: #1 shares the terse, elliptical expression of the first movement of the Piano Sonata Opus 101; #3 shares the style of elaborate, high-register elaboration of a slow melody in triple time, seen in the slow movement of the "Hammerklavier" Sonata; and the final Bagatelle opens with a chaotic passage reminiscent of the opening of the finale of the Ninth Symphony.
- B. Levy, David "Notes", second series, vol.44, no. 3 (March,1988) pp. 555-557.
- Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, online edition, article "Bagatelle". The article is by Maurice J. E. Brown. Copyright 2008, Oxford University Press.
- Lockwood, Lewis (2005) Beethoven: The Music and the Life. W. W. Norton.
- von Irmer, Otto (1975) (ed.) Beethoven: Klavierstücke. G. Henle Verlag, Munich.