Beethoven - Bagatelles
Hyperion CDA67879 Buy now
Bagatelles - Op 33; Op 119; Op 126; WoO52; WoO56; WoO60. Klavierstück, ‘Für Elise’, WoO59. Allegretto, WoO61. Allegretto quasi andante, WoO61a
Osborne follows lauded sonatas with Beethoven Bagatelles
Nothing like a Beethovenian contradiction to get things going, is there? The marking Andante grazioso quasi allegretto in Op 33 No 1 is an awkward instruction but Steven Osborne has an ingenious way with such incompatible elements. He begins the first bar as a distinct Allegretto but relaxes into Andante in the second without hiatus; and throughout, the easing and tightening of phrases, the song-like tone and discriminating tempo shifts all combine to fulfil an objective. At the other end of Op 33 is No 7, ostensibly restrained for Presto but with a cumulative thrust of its own, pedal markings scrupulously observed for ear-catching washes of pianissimo sound. Keep going to consider Op 119 No 4, a beautifully nuanced but simply lyrical Andante cantabile, No 5 living up to the requirement of a resolute forward drive, Op 126 No 4 switching between forceful B minor and a ghostly B major, to the last of Op 126 – and another contradiction. Bookended by two short prestos is a long passage to be played in a sweetly tender yet energetic manner. Difficult? Not for Osborne. It’s a part of his personal excursion to seek the individual potency of each Bagatelle.
Despite their myriad moods, these pieces aren’t ostentatious. Neither are their interpretations, unobtrusively outstanding. And the more you listen (aided by a plausibly lifelike recording), the clearer it’ll become that Osborne has delved deep to extract so much from cameos that pack emotional enormity within small spaces.