A bagatelle is a short, light composition, generally considered to be of little substance, yet the bagatelles of Ludwig van Beethoven are usually placed among his most sophisticated and elusive compositions, even though he called them "trifles." The most popular of these piano pieces is the Klavierstück in A minor, "Für Elise," which is frequently anthologized and known to casual listeners from its use in "A Charlie Brown Christmas." Considerably less familiar, even to classical listeners who should know them, are the Seven Bagatelles, Op. 33, the Eleven Bagatelles, Op. 119, and the Six Bagatelles, Op. 126, as well as a handful of bagatelles without opus numbers, which have been brought together for this Hyperion release by pianist Steven Osborne. To say that these miniatures are obscure is not quite accurate, but their relative infrequency in recitals and on recordings has made them unnecessarily mysterious. Osborne demonstrates that they are quite approachable and easy to absorb, and while he is light in tone and expression for the early bagatelles, he strives toward the sublime in Op. 119 and Op. 126, which approach the late sonatas in their ideas and moods. The playing throughout is alert and exciting, and Osborne gives the music a mixture of wit and seriousness that keeps the interpretations fresh. Hyperion's sound is clean and focused, though there is some space between the piano and the microphone that prevents it from having full presence.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Seven Bagatelles, Op. 33|
|Eleven Bagatelles, Op. 119|
|Six Bagatelles, Op. 126|