Recorded on 07/23/2008, uploaded on 12/06/2011
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Ludwig van Beethoven’s first set of bagatelles, the seven pieces of opus 33 was composed during the fateful year of 1802. In the autumn of that year, he wrote the famous Heiligenstadt Testament where he laid open to his brothers his hearing loss and the intense struggle he had been facing in coming to terms with it. He admitted to thoughts of taking his own life, but found the resolve to not abandon the world until he had fulfilled his potential as a composer. Musically, his style was rapidly changing during that year and those before it. Remnants of the Mozart-Haydn tradition still remained, yet he had already produced works of striking originality such as the Pathétique and Moonlight sonatas. The following year would see his defining Eroica Symphony that set the tone for the next decade and marked the beginning of new directions in music.
“Bagatelle” literally means “a trifle, a thing of no important or value,” which is used to describe the light, trivial nature of the piece. Given the year of their compositions, the opus 33 bagatelles where perhaps a brief respite for the composer. Certainly, compositions such as the Piano Sonata No. 15 from 1801 required an immense effort to create, with a predominantly cheerful outlook that rose above the melancholy the composer likely faced on a regular basis. Indeed, one can nearly imagine these little trifles being written “off the cuff,” as it were. Musically, the 7 Bagatelles possess little of the imagination of their forward looking companions. Joseph DuBose
courtesy of the Steans Music Institute
The Steans Music Institute is the Ravinia Festival's professional studies program for young musicians.
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