Record of the day: Beethoven, "Variations and Bagatelles"

Record of the day: Beethoven, “Variations and Bagatelles”

Ludwig van Beethoven
Variations and Bagatelles (Cd DG 457493-2)

Beethoven's piano production, in addition to the very famous thirty-two sonatas, includes a large quantity of short pieces, variations and occasional pieces often left in the shadows despite the great beauty they contain.
Many of these pages are youthful and Beethoven himself did not feel it necessary to assign them a catalog number, yet they are a real delight to listen to.

Works such as the “9 Variationen über einen March von Ernst Christoph Dressler”, those on «Venni amore» by Vincenzo Righini and «Nel corpiù non mi felt» by Paisiello are illuminating examples of the compositional style of the young Ludwig, marked by a spectacular virtuosity executive.
The world of the Variations and the lightning Bagatelle also served Beethoven as a laboratory to experiment with new harmonious, formal and contrapuntal solutions subsequently transferred into larger works; in the case of works such as the “Bagatelle op. 119” they must be placed on the same prophetic level as all of the Maestro's latest production.

Naturally not all the works present in this double CD have the same artistic consistency; undoubtedly you could survive very well without ever having listened to the “Polonaise op. 89”, the 6 “Minuets WoO 10” or the “Variations on the «Minuetto à la Viganò»” from the ballet «Le nozze disturbed» by Jakob Haibel; but, even if not fundamental, these are works that are very pleasant to listen to, with always interesting melodic ideas and piano solutions that avoid the clichés in vogue at the time; although Beethoven often complained about having to write occasional pieces to earn his living, once at work he still tried to give the best of himself, often demonstrating a tasty sense of humor.

If you then consider that the album benefits from the excellent interpretation of the Russian pianist Mikhail Pletnev, perfectly at ease both in the most reckless and in the more reflective ones (such as “Andante favor woO 57”, perhaps the most famous piece of the entire collection), endowed with executive clarity, great dynamic capacity and brightness of touch, then listening to
this album will also appear to you as an excellent opportunity to satisfy your curiosity to delve into the most remote corners of Beethoven's production, without limiting yourself to the best known and loved works.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.