Notes and Editorial Reviews
Rondos: in C,
Op. 129, “Alla ingharese quasi un capriccio”;
Natalia Valentin (fp)
PARATY 109104 (56:11)
Here is a collection of Beethoven gems for solo piano, all but one of which have received their fair share of attention on record, even though most are considered of lesser importance in the composer’s catalog. The one item suffering from attention deficit, probably because its attribution to Beethoven is doubtful, is the Rondo in B?-Major, designated Anh 6 in the Kinsky-Halm Appendix. The two op. 51 rondos ended up as a pair, but they were composed and originally published separately, the first in C Major in 1797 with a dedication to Countess Henriette Lichnowsky, sister of one of Beethoven’s most reliable patrons, Prince Karl Lichnowsky. The second, Rondo in G Major, was probably composed not much later, but it wasn’t published until 1802 with a dedication to Beethoven’s love interest and dedicatee of the “Moonlight” Sonata, Countess Giulietta Guicciardi. The C-Major Rondo is mostly all lightness and Mozartean grace, while the G-Major Rondo is of a more wistful character. Why, I don’t know, but the C-Major piece enjoys a good deal of popularity, while the G-Major work practically languishes in privation.
The most familiar of Beethoven’s piano rondos is, no doubt, the one that has come to be known popularly as “The Rage over a Lost Penny,” op. 129, a sobriquet likely given the piece by Anton Schindler. To Beethoven, the music exemplified the Gypsy or Hungarian style fashionable at the time and heard in works like the
Rondo a l’Ongarese
finale to Haydn’s Piano Trio in G Major, Hob XV/25 (No. 39). Beethoven’s coining of the term
in the title was the result either of his less than fluent command of the Italian language, or an attempt to conflate
(in Gypsy style) and
(in Hungarian style). In any case, the piece is a hoot and of much earlier provenance than its absurdly high opus number would suggest. It has now been dated to sometime between 1795 and 1798.
Whether it’s by Beethoven or not, the B?-Major Rondo, Anh 6 strikes me as not in the least inferior to the op. 51 rondos. In fact, there are many turns of phrase and modulations that have Beethoven’s distinctive fingerprints all over them, so I’d personally be comfortable calling the piece authentic. The
is the slow movement Beethoven originally composed for the “Waldstein” Sonata and then rejected. It’s a pretty enough thing in a kind of pedestrian way, but no match for the
stroke of genius the composer ultimately substituted in its place. On three separate occasions, Beethoven turned to a form of lightweight musical entertainment called a bagatelle, the word literally meaning a trifle. Two of those instances came in his later years, the 11 bagatelles of op. 119, written between 1820 and 1822, and the 11 bagatelles of op. 126, composed in 1824, which turned out to be the last piano pieces he would write. Some 20-odd years earlier, in 1801–02, Beethoven composed the 7 bagatelles, op. 33, heard on the present disc.
This is Natalia Valentin’s debut album, recorded at Varallo Sesia, Italy, in 2009. It was Want Listed by Laura Rónai in
33: 2, but as far as I can tell, never actually reviewed. Valentin is a French pianist who specializes in early keyboard instruments. The fortepiano she plays on the current disc is an instrument by an anonymous 18th-century maker from Southern Germany, made available to Valentin from a private collection. It was restored by Christopher Clarke.
You would think that these mostly early piano pieces by Beethoven would be fertile feeding grounds for the period keyboardists, but oddly, for the most part, they seem to have left this repertoire to the modern-instrument crowd. Ronald Brautigam, Melvyn Tan, Robert Levin, and perhaps one or two others have recorded some of these pieces, but the listings don’t turn up as many period-instrument versions of these works as I would have expected. That, of course, would ordinarily be to Valentin’s advantage, except that she doesn’t need an advantage. Her way with this music is in perfect keeping with its mostly lightweight nature, and her instrument complements these pieces with clear voicing and limpid tone. Rónai said of Valentin that she plays with ease and assurance, unafraid to be sentimental but invariably keeping excesses at bay. And I couldn’t agree more. This is a wonderful release and strongly recommended.
FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
Works on This Recording
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