11 багателей для фортепиано, Opus 119

Время создания: 1820-1822 гг.

№1. Allegretto
№2. Andante con moto
№3. a l'Allemande
№4. Andante cantabile
№5. Risoluto
№6. Andante - Allegretto
№7. Allegro ma non troppo
№8. Moderato
№9. Vivace moderato
№10. Allegramente
№11. Andante, ma non troppo

Михаил Плетнев, фортепиано

Today, the eleven bagatelles op. 119 are comprised in one opus number which belies the fact that Beethoven neither wrote nor planned them as a cycle. Instead, op. 119 is a free combination of old and new pieces that could not be more disparate.

From early 1820 onwards, Beethoven now and then contributed short pieces to Friedrich Starke's "Vienna Piano Forte School". For the second part of the instructions, published in June 1820, the composer added directions for fingering and performance to the second and fourth movement of his piano sonata op. 28. For the third part, published one year later, Beethoven composed five short pieces and named them "Bagatelles". The bagatelles later became numbers 7 to 11 of the bagatelles op. 119. In the preface of his piano forte school, author Starke commented on the pieces: "Although these pieces are called "bagatelles", each of their movement expresses not only the particular genius of the famous master but also offers the player plenty of learning opportunities as one needs to fully understand the composition."
Numbers 1 to 6 have a different origin and only their history resulted in the combination of op. 119. At the beginning of the 1820s, Beethoven was in great financial distress because of sickness, inability to work and drawn-out trials. Thus, the enquiry of publisher Carl Friedrich Peters from Leipzig in May 1822 came in handy. Peters contacted Beethoven for compositions and asked for almost any genre, even solo pieces for piano forte and short works. The publisher's enquiry led to a long correspondence by letter. Among other pieces, Beethoven offered him four bagatelles and enhanced his offer by two more bagatelles in December 1822. In mid-February 1823, Peters received the bagatelles. Beethoven partly chose older compositions from the 1790s. Peters however, rejected the pieces, arguing that he did not want to expose himself to the danger of being reproached for falsely attributing the bagatelles to Beethoven as not many people would believe that the pieces were indeed from Beethoven. Although Peters had asked the composer for short compositions, he considered the ones delivered as too short. Together with his brother Johann whom Beethoven had ceded the pieces as a security for a loan, the composer tried to find another publisher - in vain. Only his former student Ferdinand Ries in London managed to sell the six bagatelles for Peters together with the five ones for Starke as a collection of eleven "trifles" to London publisher Clementi. The bagatelles received their first opus number by Parisian publisher Schlesinger who published them in December 1823 under opus number 112 (continuation to piano sonatas op. 109 - 111 published by him). In 1851 Breitkopf & Hartel assigned the bagatelles the opus number 119.


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.

(All Music Guide)