Beethoven Bagatelles

27 posts / 0 new
Last post
Beethoven Bagatelles

Best recs. please? I only have one set by Jeno Jando on Naxos.

Fraz Jo - disapntd. Bn ringin this grl al week. No ansr...looks lke she changed her mnd. O well...Ldwg...

I haven't heard that many

I haven't heard that many versions, Mark. I have the Brendel set - one CD with all the bagatelles and and a few other bits and pieces (fur elise etc). I am not much of a Brendel fan, but I bought this before I realised that; it was the recommended version in just about all the reviews. Anyway - despite my post-purchase Brendel misgivings - I have to admit that it is excellent and probably about as good as any other set out there. Good sound, rock solid playing, thoroughly worked out, coherent interpretations.

I've also got the Glenn Gould set, which is actually very good (the rests of his Beethoven is risible), though probably not the first one you would want.

Finally, I've got the Opus 126 set with Andras Schiff playing a period instrument. (The Shadow on the Net mentioned it on another thread some time ago.) It comes in a double CD with two version of the Diabelli variations played on different pianos. I mention it only because it is absolutely outstanding. I am normally allergic to the honky-tonk twang of period pianos, but this is just gorgeous. It really opened my ears to the greatness and beauty of these final keyboard works - and the possibilities of the fortepiano.

Benchmark Brendel

 

Thanks for that Jane. I'm a kind-of fan of Brendel. I think I mentioned a while ago on another thread that his playing of the last six sonatas on the CD (double I think) I have is benchmark. That is to say it is good, but didn't particularly float my boat.

I've not really gone into period instruments much - like your description of the honky-tonk twang!

The reason I am asking about the bagatelles is because I'm learning the opus 126 set - beautiful melodies, so I want to hear how to really play them. Generally speaking I don't like pianists who play turbo-charged, who take allegro as molto allegro or presto at a bonkers tempo (Argerich, who I've seen live and like, does that with the Chopin preludes for example). I prefer my pianists thoughtful rather than dazzling with their virtuosity.

I'll have a think what to order...

Thanks again

M

Fraz Jo - disapntd. Bn ringin this grl al week. No ansr...looks lke she changed her mnd. O well...Ldwg...

More Bagatelles.

Mark, as Jane said Brendel is widely considered as a "benchmark" for these works, probably because the field is not that saturated with recordings.

For the full sets of the Bagatelles, you may try, as viable options, the Hyperion good recording with Steven Osborne or the John Lill's fine recording on Chandos. On the other hand, there are at least three very good recordings of the three sets on the Fortepiano: the great Brautigam, in superb recordings on BIS, the excellent Linda Nicholson on Accent (very impressive recording too) and van Immerseel on Accent. The instruments they use give full justice to the historical perspective of the works and have nothing to do with "honky-tonky twang", as Schiff proves in his double CD of the Diabelli Variuations, where he performs only the Op. 126.

For the Op.126 only, there are more recordings. I admire very much Jill Crossland's rather old recording on Divine Art (in a fine program along with works of Mozart and transcriptions of Bach by Busoni).

Parla

Viable Options

Thanks Parla. I'm glad you've not bombarded me with a long list!

When you say the Osborne and Lill are good recordings, do you have a preference for whose is the better performance?

I've noticed there are a number on youtube including Richter, Pollini et al...Though the sound isn't great on my small Advent speakers, I will sample...

Fraz Jo - disapntd. Bn ringin this grl al week. No ansr...looks lke she changed her mnd. O well...Ldwg...

Osborne/Lill.

To put that way: Osborne is a bit better recorded (more detailed and very good definition), Lill is a very fine pianist in a not so impressive production.

Try to include at least a Fortepiano recording too (Brautigam or Nicholson are very fine for all the sets).

Parla

 

You can listen to the

You can listen to the beginning (first minute) of every track on a Hyperion record at the Hyperion website. Easy to navigate, speedy response, excellent sound quality and full booklet notes, with reviews. I have discovered countless recordings this way........not that you can ever go wrong with Hyperion, who seem to do everything to the very highest standards.

Osborne's bagatelles here

It's a simple case of interpretation!

It really is fascinating comparing one pianist's interpretation with another:

Glenn Gould - Bagatelle no. 3 op. 126

http://youtu.be/0iUm7N2Vwm8

I really don't know exactly what to make of this. The first part of this in my opinion is far too slow, an adagio easily rather than an Andante Cantabile e grazioso. Personally I think that is wrong, as the real indicator word for me there is cantabile - in a singing style. Glenn's playing here means it drags rather than sings. However, beginning with the long trill in the right hand on the B flat (bar 28), the second half is much more like the real thing, and he seems to increase the tempo to a much better one. A piece of two halves.

http://youtu.be/yVUkzJGkgtU

This is Brendel, and apologies for saying his playing was benchmark (or so it struck me on the six last sonatas admittedly on a first listen) because this is a very fine performance of this piece. His glissandos seem like he is just ever so lightly touching the keyboard, and he can draw different nunances out of repeated notes, among other things. Amazing. The third bagatelle sings properly here imo. Nice tempo.

http://youtu.be/75i53JScg14

This is Kempff from 1964 - a good set, just for me a little too forceful on the fortes and a bit too manic on the faster pieces - nos. 2 and the hellishly difficult no. 4 which is a longish piece and is marked Presto.

This opus 126 set is amazing really. At times it feels like Beethoven is just gracefully doodling, at other times they have an improvised feel like the Schubert impromptus, and at other times there is a more solemn mood.

I can't seem to get a sound on the Hyperion site. I'll try again. I think the Brendel disc will be going in the basket so far. Thanks Jane. Agree with you when you said:

'Anyway - despite my post-purchase Brendel misgivings - I have to admit that it is excellent and probably about as good as any other set out there. Good sound, rock solid playing, thoroughly worked out, coherent interpretations'.

M

 

Fraz Jo - disapntd. Bn ringin this grl al week. No ansr...looks lke she changed her mnd. O well...Ldwg...

I quite like the Gould, Mark,

I quite like the Gould, Mark, but it isn't really in the same league as the Brendel. Obviously, Gould wouldn't have cared about following Beethoven's instructions........ 

You're right about the Opus 126 set - really fabulous music. I suspect they have always suffered from being called "Bagatelles". If Beethoven had called them "Six Meditations on Death and the Afterlife", every pianist and his dog would be rushing off to record them.

Much more than mere bagatelles...

 

I just googled a definition and it came up with a game of billiards!

Here's Wiki's definition:

'A bagatelle is a short piece of music, typically for the piano, and usually of a light, mellow character. The name bagatelle literally means a "a short unpretentious instrumental composition" as a reference to the light style of a piece' (Oxford English Dictionary 2001; Kennedy and Kennedy 2007).

They certainly are quite profound pieces. I'm with you on that. Beethoven's genius again, elevating the form of a mere 'light and mellow' piece to a new level. There is 'mellow' in there imo, but not light! There are some really 'bare' moments as well, reminding me a bit of that slow movement in Mozart's A major PC 23 - where incredibly towards the end he takes it down to just single notes on the piano There's real melancholy in that Siciliana movement by Mozart, and there are similar moments in Ludwig's Bagatelles.

I think I'll have to have a proper listen sometime to Gould's op. 126 set at least. The second half though as I say of no. 3 is good.

'...every pianist and his dog would be rushing off to record them'. LOL!

Fraz Jo - disapntd. Bn ringin this grl al week. No ansr...looks lke she changed her mnd. O well...Ldwg...

But which Brendel recording?

I assume Jane & Partsong are referring to Brendel's Philips recording (which I haven't heard) although I do like his Vox recording (an old Penguin Guide says the older recordings have "more bravura"). As ever though my first choice for the first & last sets is easily Schnabel (he doesn't seem to have recorded Op119).

 

Another recording I would put on a par with Brendel is the now long forgotten Denis Matthews (Vanguard CD). Although I commented favourably on Jill Crossland's earlier Mozart & Bethoven CD (isn't there a post devoted to her?) I found her latest issue a disappointment and the performances rather prosaic. I don't have any Gould recordings - what little I have heard I haven't liked (particularly his sound). 

Pages

Log in or register to post comments

Gramophone Subscriptions

From£67/year

Gramophone Print

Gramophone Print

no Digital Edition
no Digital Archive
no Reviews Database
no Events & Offers
From£67/year
Subscribe
From£67/year

Gramophone Reviews

Gramophone Reviews

no Print Edition
no Digital Edition
no Digital Archive
no Events & Offers
From£67/year
Subscribe
From£67/year

Gramophone Digital Edition

Gramophone Digital Edition

no Print Edition
no Reviews Database
no Events & Offers
From£67/year
Subscribe

If you are a library, university or other organisation that would be interested in an institutional subscription to Gramophone please click here for further information.

© MA Business and Leisure Ltd. 2019