Beethoven: Für Elise; Bagatelles Opp. 33, 119 & 126

Beethoven: Für Elise; Bagatelles Opp. 33, 119 & 126

by Paul LewisPaul Lewis


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Paul Lewis has emerged as a fine contemporary Beethoven specialist, as something of an heir to the probing readings of Alfred Brendel. His readings of Beethoven's "sonatas" are worth multiple hearings, and so it is with this group of "bagatelles," a term that Beethoven was the first to use consistently for a musical genre. The word means "trifle," but Beethoven's "bagatelles" are insignificant only in length: they are quite short, in a few cases (like "No. 10" of the "Op. 119" set) freakishly short. The "Op. 33" set, from 1802, has the feel of discarded sonata movements, and they have the restless quality of many of the sonatas from that period. Try the "fifth bagatelle" of the set, where Lewis catches the wildly humorous treatment of register without devolving into grotesquerie. The pieces in the "Op. 119" set, erroneously stated here as dating from 1820 to 1822, actually come from several phases of Beethoven's career, and Lewis' readings are appropriately diverse. The "Op. 126 bagatelles," from 1823, are genuine late Beethoven, with revelatory treatments of form fully comparable to the late Beethoven quartets and the "Symphony No. 9, Op. 125." The "B minor Presto bagatelle" is a good example, with its bizarre ragtime-like syncopations; Lewis takes this piece a bit too fast (Beethoven's late tempo indications are not always to be taken seriously) to get the rhythmic profile, but several of the pieces in the set are profound. Listeners also get a super-popular Beethoven work, the "Bagatelle in A minor, WoO 59," better known as "Für Elise," as well as some short but interesting Klavierstücke that are even less known than the "bagatelles." Only in the "Fantasia in G minor, Op 77," does Lewis become more expansive for a big finale. Everything else is quite compact and concentrated, and the listener has the sense of being told a very detailed story, even as the individual pieces are small. Excellent sound from Harmonia Mundi engineers, working at Berlin's Teldex Studio, adds to the feeling of works that are being opened up to reveal depths.

Product Details

Release Date: 07/10/2020
Label: Harmonia Mundi Fr.
UPC: 3149020941850
catalogNumber: 902416
Rank: 13049


  1. Fantasia for piano in G minor, Op. 77
  2. Allegretto quasi andante for piano in G minor, WoO 61a
  3. Allegretto for piano in B minor, WoO 61
  4. Bagatelle for piano in B flat major, WoO 60
  5. Bagatelle for piano in A minor ("Für Elise"), WoO 59
  6. Bagatelles (6) for piano, Op. 126
  7. Bagatelles (11) for piano, Op. 119
  8. Bagatelles (7) for piano, Op. 33

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Paul Lewis   Primary Artist

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