Welcome! 🙂 I hope the daily music posts here on the blog are giving you a boost, in these strange and unsettling times. If you’re new to the series and would like to check out earlier posts, you’ll find the first one here.
For today’s piece, I started exploring a collection of music I haven’t looked at in a very long time (somewhere around 30 years): Ludwig van Beethoven’s Bagatelles. I think several of them will be making an appearance on the blog over the next couple of weeks.
Beethoven, as I’ve written about before on the blog, was one of the single greatest innovators of music history. He was born and trained during the Classical Era (1750-1825), when some of the ideals of music included simplicity, clarity, tightness of form and structure, and an overall sense of elegance and restraint. Beethoven quickly found that he wanted to explore different ways of writing music; his deafness helped to drive his personal musical revolution. He began writing longer, more intricate, and far more dramatic works than his listeners were used to. He used instruments that had never been showcased in concert, and embraced a level of drama, fire, and passionate expression that changed the course of music history.
While so much of Beethoven’s writing taps into this “heroic” style and approach, with his Bagatelles, we find a charming contrast. Beethoven wrote these short piano pieces throughout his compositional career. Most of them are straightforward from a technical standpoint, but they include contrasts of mood and an overall sense of sweetness and humor that are uniquely Beethoven. Many of them also have a “sung” or “spoken” feel, as if, like Mendelssohn’s Songs without Words, they’re actually short stories told through music.
As you listen to today’s piece, if you’d like, think about whether it conjures up any particular sense of story for you. Does it make you imagine a character, or maybe a place? Some sort of action? As always, you’re welcome to share your thoughts and responses to the music in the comments.
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