These six short pieces were written between 1894 and 1897 -- a period during which Nielsen was enjoying the success of his First Symphony. They represent a return to the lightness and simplicity of the Five Pieces, Op. 3 of 1890, and a departure from the massive Symphonic Suite for piano, Op. 8 (1894)--far and away his most ambitious keyboard work to date.
Dedicated to the composer's children, the Humoresque-Bagatelles were first performed on February 2, 1898 by Nielsen's pupil Johanne Stockmarr. The set's title is well chosen; the six pieces are brief, unpretentious, and fanciful in nature, proceeding one to the next with a sense of carefree expedition. The second piece, "Spinning Top," with its circling motion in the right hand, might make a good finger exercise for intermediate pianists, and the "Doll's March" (No. 5) is probably the best known, with a cute, catchy tune. The other pieces are titled, "Hallo, Hallo!" (No. 1), "A Short Slow Waltz" (No. 3), "Jumping Jack" (No. 4), and "The Musical Clock" (No. 6).