25 Essential Beethoven Recordings: The Bagatelles

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Beethoven wrote three sets of Bagetelles, those short character pieces for piano, first early in his career, and again towards the end. Many serious pianists and musicologists consider the first set, Opus 33, to be the doodlings of an immature genius. But most of the pieces of the second two -- Op. 119 and Op. 126 -- aspire to some musical distinction, mixing the deceptively simple and the more dramatic.

The London-based American pianist Stephen Kovacevich included the Bagatelles on his complete Beethoven cycle for EMI in the 1990s and they continue to rank among the standout versions.

He delivers a stylish and piquant reading of first Op. 119 Bagatelle and uncovers hidden details in the Opus 126 set. But he also finds depths of feeling and unexpected humor in the sometimes innocuous early pieces. As one reviewer once put it, Kovacevich makes these works seem like "polished miniature objects, their edges focused and glittering."

Kovacevich recorded the individual sets of Bagatelles separately, but Phillips has recently reissued them together on one CD.

Sonatas and Bagatelles. Stephen Kovacevich, piano
EMI Classics
Available at Arkivmusic.com


More in:

Comments [3]

Ralph Seniori from New York

There is an error in this review. Kovacevich's recording of the Bagatelles in NOT part of his recordings with EMI of the sonatas. It is a much earlier recording for the Philips label.

Jan. 19 2015 11:22 AM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama IInstitute, Boonton, NJ

Beethoven's symphonies, opera, concertos, sonatas, string quartets, overtures, bagatelles, tone poems, chamber music generally, and song literature, is so pervasive and his world consciousness and basic humanity construct an icon unparalleled to and past his own era. At Juilliard, I studied his oeuvre and , in those days, all singers learned the concert rep of Beethoven , Schubert , Schumann, Wolf and Grieg, whether they would be opera singers or concert singers . So much of our treasured masterpieces, vocal and instrumental, are unknown quantities to most Americans. THANK YOU WQXR FOR CELEBRATING BEETHOVEN !!! Beethoven's symphonies are the ABCs of most essential single composers' oeuvre of the symphonic literature. Who ever having heard the Waldstein well performed can ever forget its beauty and nuanced scope of emotions. Wagner and his contemporaries and their successors all recognized the epic achievement of Beethoven. I am a romantischer Wagnerian heldentenor and director of the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute at 418A Main Street, Boonton, NJ . I have sung four solo concerts in the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall. As part of my Ten Language Solo Debut concert at the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall, I sang the Gott ! welch dunkel hier ! aria of Fidelio. it can be heard from the live performance on my three websites, one of which is www.WagnerOpera.com It received rave critical notices in newspapers and magazines. Rudolf Serkin and his son, Peter are among those other great interpreters of Beethoven's piano concertos and sonatas, Artur Rubinstein, Vladimir Horowitz, Walter Gieseking, ignace Paderevski, Emil Gilels and Simon Barere, remarkable for their virtuosity, and immense ability to interpret from their own perspective. The Beethoven violin concerto is celebrated by its ardent interpreters Heifetz, Menuhin, Kreisler and Perlman.

Dec. 06 2012 12:04 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

Pianist STEPHEN KOVACEVICH's recordings of BEETHOVEN's bagatelles which I heard on today's broadcast are an eminent addition to one's comprehension of the scope of that master's oeuvre. Beethoven's expressive articulation through the piano, the violin family and the orchestra of the nuances of all the emotions and feelings reveals a genius unfathomable given the resources open to him at his era. JUST IMAGINE THE POSSIBILITIES FOR MASTERPIECES that he might write were he living in our tines ! KUDOS TO MR. KOVACEVICH and to WQXR for airing the bagatelles.

Nov. 29 2012 11:29 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

The WQXR e-newsletter. Show highlights, links to music news, on-demand concerts, events from The Greene Space and more.

Follow WQXR 







About Beethoven Awareness Month

No composer impacted the course of Western music like Ludwig van Beethoven. The events of his life are the stuff of Romantic legend, his works permeate concert halls and he remains a cultural icon outside of classical music, turning up in movies, TV soundtracks, commercials and pop songs. Throughout November, WQXR celebrates Beethoven's work through concert broadcasts, multimedia projects, marathons and other features.