No Mere Bagatelles

When we have breakfast, we tend to have the BBC’s Classical Music Radio Station (Radio 3) playing in the background.  Usually this provides a beautiful low-key score to our morning routine.  But every now and again they play something which demands nothing but one’s utmost attention and dedication.

This happened a couple of days ago when I realised that I had tuned closely into a work I had not heard before – Antonín Dvořák’s Bagatelles Op 47.

You can listen to the short but complete set here.

According to Wiki, 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 short unpretentious instrumental composition” as a reference to the light style of a piece (Oxford English Dictionary 2001; Kennedy and Kennedy 2007).”

You will find that Dvořák’s work fits this definition, but also transcends it with his choice of instrument combination – he uses two violins, cello and harmonium.  The latter brings such an interesting sense of paradox, being both mellow and light.

A bagatelle can also be for solo instrument.  Among the best known of these are Beethoven’s Bagatelles for piano.  You can view the famous and fabulous Op33 being played here.

And in a similar vein, if you are so inclined, watch the ever admired “Für Elise”, which is actually Bagatelle No 25, being played here (and read more about this piece here). I must admit that, despite it’s massive popularity, I find this particular piece hard to listen to.  As a youngster taking piano lessons, I once gaily skipped along to my piano teacher clutching the sheet music, and asked if I could learn it. I will never forget her anguished groan and her plea for us not to do it – she had spent time on it with so many of her students over the years, I think I was the straw that broke that particular camel’s back!! And I have never warmed to it since.

So let’s rush back to the beauty of the Dvořák. There are some pieces which are so fresh and light, with just enough depth and corners to keep you interested, that they become instant friends. I’ve already added this work to my wish list for when I have finished my alphabet – I can’t wait to become re-aquainted with this already firm favourite! 🙂

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12 thoughts on “No Mere Bagatelles

  1. My memories of your childhood include hearing you learn and play “Für Elise” and of course violin pieces by Dvorak as you made your way to your violin diploma. I enjoyed every minute of the music that you and your sister learned.

    1. Ah, thanks Mum – you put up with a lot while we learned our music, I know, and it was with your love, patience and support that we achieved all that we did 🙂 xxxx

    1. Really glad this appealed to you and your Euro tastes – roll on the festivities tomorrow! Not sure what Dvořák would have said about the inclusion of the Aussies, although he had a pretty worldly outlook on life, so maybe he would have been all for it 🙂

      1. If anybody recovers from the mysterious virus that we definitely did not use so we could have a chance of winning…

  2. Have you come across any piano music more sublime than J.S Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier? Its music which demands the listener’s full attention to marvel at the mathematical intricacies. That he allegedly wrote the pieces as an ‘exercise’ beggars belief. It is meditative music of the highest calibre in my opinion. Ive CDs of Barenboim playing. Brilliant!

    1. Oh my goodness, there are hardly words! I completely agree with all you say about this amazing body of music. As a piano student many years ago, I used to dip my fingers into some of the ‘easier’ parts, and marvel at the maestros who had the works fully mastered. Yes, music which is total nourishment for the soul indeed 🙂

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