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#1443205 - 05/25/10 07:13 AM what is a bagatelle?
jnod Offline
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Registered: 04/04/09
Posts: 794
Loc: Toronto
I've been messing around with several of Beethoven's Bagatelle's. Many of them are decidedly weird but they're fun little things and not that difficult to knock off in a weekend. Good to play for guests - enough interest to be .... interesting but short enough to not be boring.

Does anyone know anything about these pieces? I don't see them in the output of most classical/romantic composers. They almost seem like exercises. A little message from Beethoven: 'I do this in my Sonatas too only with much greater depth and more difficulty... so watch out!'
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#1443208 - 05/25/10 07:21 AM Re: what is a bagatelle? [Re: jnod]
Varcon Offline
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Registered: 10/15/04
Posts: 1931
Loc: Mount Vernon, Georgia 30445
Basically it means a 'trifle' so musically I would regard it as simply a fun piece but not one of great depth or emotion and generally rather short. Other composers than Beethoven also composed bagatelles and I think you will find them only one or two pages and not terrificly difficult but entertaining.

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#1443210 - 05/25/10 07:23 AM Re: what is a bagatelle? [Re: Varcon]
Batuhan Offline
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Registered: 09/21/09
Posts: 975
Loc: Istanbul
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 "trifle", as a reference to the innocent character of the piece.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bagatelle_%28music%29
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#1443330 - 05/25/10 11:48 AM Re: what is a bagatelle? [Re: Varcon]
beet31425 Online   content
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Registered: 06/12/09
Posts: 3977
Loc: Bay Area, CA
Originally Posted By: Varcon
musically I would regard it as simply a fun piece but not one of great depth or emotion...


This might describe Beethoven's op.33 bagatelles. The Original Post ("decidedly weird but they're fun little things... like exercises") might describe some of Beethoven's op.119 bagatelles.

But imo neither statement describes the six op. 126 bagatelles, each of which is a tight, well-constructed masterpiece of supreme emotion.


-J
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#1443334 - 05/25/10 11:55 AM Re: what is a bagatelle? [Re: beet31425]
eweiss Offline
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Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 2393
Loc: Beautiful San Diego, CA
French bread?
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#1443336 - 05/25/10 11:57 AM Re: what is a bagatelle? [Re: eweiss]
moscheles001 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/13/08
Posts: 758
Loc: Northeast Pennsylvania
As Ralph Kramden would say, "A mere bag of shells."

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#1443341 - 05/25/10 12:03 PM Re: what is a bagatelle? [Re: beet31425]
Mostly Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/14/10
Posts: 271
Not really music related, but for those for are into linguistic and lexicology...

Around 1800, une bagatelle was a trivial thing, something meant to please rather than to educate. Hence, they are usually pieces written without form, in a lighter mood, supposedly composed / played without effort (also applies to literature or drawing.) It really might be exactly what we could call a "salon piece" ; something to entertain guests shortly, while still permitting conversation.
Later, near the end of the XIXth century, it could also mean, in a familiar way, what we call nowadays "flirt", and in an even more familiar way, making love. However, that relationship with love has somewhat always been present in the word as it could mean, since the 1700s, "une petite galanterie" - hard for me to translate...
Regarding the etymology, my dictionaries (and God knows I have plenty) doesn't really give me anything meanful...

Nowadays I've seen it used (mostly in literature though) to mean exactly the contrary (antiphrase) ; a huge sum of money could be called "une bagatelle".


Edited by Mostly (05/25/10 12:09 PM)

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#1443347 - 05/25/10 12:09 PM Re: what is a bagatelle? [Re: Mostly]
JGonzalezGUS Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/22/09
Posts: 191
Loc: Florida, USA
According to The Harvard Dictionary of Music: ""A short, unpretentious piece, often for piano and often presented in sets with contrasting tempos and moods..."
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#1443353 - 05/25/10 12:18 PM Re: what is a bagatelle? [Re: JGonzalezGUS]
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
Originally Posted By: batuhan
The name bagatelle literally means a "trifle", as a reference to the innocent character of the piece


What does it mean for a piece to be "innocent"?

Originally Posted By: GonzalesGUS
According to The Harvard Dictionary of Music: ""A short, unpretentious piece, often for piano and often presented in sets with contrasting tempos and moods..."


What does it mean for a piece to be "unpretentious"? (or "pretentious")
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#1443355 - 05/25/10 12:20 PM Re: what is a bagatelle? [Re: Mostly]
pianojerome Offline
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Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
Originally Posted By: Mostly
Around 1800, une bagatelle was a trivial thing, something meant to please rather than to educate.

[...]

Nowadays I've seen it used (mostly in literature though) to mean exactly the contrary (antiphrase) ; a huge sum of money could be called "une bagatelle".


Does the huge sum of money have some sort of trivial connotations? In other words, is the money viewed as a positive thing, or rather as something grandiose but empty that is simply "meant to please"?

What I'm really asking is whether the modern literary meaning is really the exact contrary of the "trifle" meaning.
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#1443364 - 05/25/10 12:29 PM Re: what is a bagatelle? [Re: pianojerome]
Mostly Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/14/10
Posts: 271
Well it obviously depends on the context.
Imagine Bill Gates buying Apple and saying it cost him une bagatelle ; in that case, the word would retain it's original meaning of "trivial" - but still, be tinted with a glimmer of irony, as Mr. Gates very well-knows it still was quite the sum of money.
On the other hand, imagine you going at your local Steinway dealer and trying out a beautiful grand. You then narrate this visit to a friend, and when she asks you "and ? did you end up buying it ?", you answer "nah, it cost the bagatelle of <insert ridiculously large sum of money>." In this case, the money is nothing trivial, since it made it so you didn't buy the piano - though you could explain the antiphrase by saying it is so large that it is not relevant. In this regard, human perception is made in a way that things excessivly large can't really be understood, because they are on a scale completly foreign to us.

Also, that's really literate, you wouldn't really say this in everyday life I guess. Though I might, but well.


Edited by Mostly (05/25/10 12:29 PM)

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#1443413 - 05/25/10 01:37 PM Re: what is a bagatelle? [Re: Mostly]
fuzzy8balls Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/28/07
Posts: 467
Loc: San Diego, CA
Thanks for the clarification -- I always thought it was funny why Beethoven wrote music about bread.
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#1443423 - 05/25/10 01:59 PM Re: what is a bagatelle? [Re: Varcon]
Mark_C Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 20227
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: Varcon
Basically it means a 'trifle'.....

I would have sworn you were sort of confusing it with.....

Originally Posted By: moscheles001
As Ralph Kramden would say, "A mere bag of shells."

(.....and yes, Ralph Kramden was exactly what I thought of too.) ha

.....but I looked it up and I see it's exactly right.

It's ironic that Beethoven would have called such meaty pieces "bagatelles." I wonder if it was sort of like Brahms saying he had written a "tiny tiny pianoforte concerto" when he was talking about his 2nd.

Originally Posted By: beet31425
Originally Posted By: Varcon
musically I would regard it as simply a fun piece but not one of great depth or emotion...
This might describe Beethoven's op.33 bagatelles. The Original Post ("decidedly weird but they're fun little things... like exercises") might describe some of Beethoven's op.119 bagatelles.
But imo neither statement describes the six op. 126 bagatelles, each of which is a tight, well-constructed masterpiece of supreme emotion.

You betcha -- absolutely.

P.S. I've seen "Fur Elise" sometimes called a bagatelle. Where would that fit in this? IMO in between.
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#1443533 - 05/25/10 05:00 PM Re: what is a bagatelle? [Re: Mark_C]
jnod Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/04/09
Posts: 794
Loc: Toronto
Interesting range of opinions! Though I think the bread product is actually a 'bagatellette'.
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#1443559 - 05/25/10 05:52 PM Re: what is a bagatelle? [Re: jnod]
dolce sfogato Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/29/10
Posts: 2704
It's a little palace in the Bois de Boulogne, just outside the city of Paris, France, Europe,etc.
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#1443642 - 05/25/10 08:07 PM Re: what is a bagatelle? [Re: Mostly]
packa Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/05/05
Posts: 1399
Loc: Dallas, TX
Originally Posted By: Mostly
Nowadays I've seen it used (mostly in literature though) to mean exactly the contrary (antiphrase) ; a huge sum of money could be called "une bagatelle".


I'd love to see a citation for this usage, since it's not documented in the OED or my handy Merriam-Webster.
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#1443693 - 05/25/10 09:49 PM Re: what is a bagatelle? [Re: packa]
Schubertian Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 946
Loc: Dallas, TX, US
Quote:
But imo neither statement describes the six op. 126 bagatelles, each of which is a tight, well-constructed masterpiece of supreme emotion.


I second this. They are all wonderful pieces - and unquestionably in the late style.


Edited by Schubertian (05/25/10 09:49 PM)
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#1444647 - 05/27/10 09:44 AM Re: what is a bagatelle? [Re: eweiss]
Skorpius Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/17/08
Posts: 751
Originally Posted By: eweiss
French bread?


That's a baguette... thumb
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#1444686 - 05/27/10 10:52 AM Re: what is a bagatelle? [Re: Skorpius]
pianoloverus Online   content
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Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 20283
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A lot of posts at PW?

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#1444727 - 05/27/10 11:56 AM Re: what is a bagatelle? [Re: Mostly]
MegumiNoda Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/31/09
Posts: 204
Originally Posted By: Mostly
Not really music related, but for those for are into linguistic and lexicology...


And here, we have a bunch of linguists discussing the word:
Language Log: Bagatelling around


Edited by MegumiNoda (05/27/10 11:57 AM)

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#1444734 - 05/27/10 12:11 PM Re: what is a bagatelle? [Re: MegumiNoda]
Mostly Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/14/10
Posts: 271
That's quite a lot of speculation though ; but a fun read anyway.

I understand now that the Bagatelle is a piece of music used to cue another piece in...

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#1444856 - 05/27/10 03:43 PM Re: what is a bagatelle? [Re: Varcon]
BruceD Offline
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Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 18822
Loc: Victoria, BC
Originally Posted By: Varcon
Basically it means a 'trifle' so musically I would regard it as simply a fun piece but not one of great depth or emotion and generally rather short. Other composers than Beethoven also composed bagatelles and I think you will find them only one or two pages and not terrificly difficult but entertaining.


I tend to go with this perspective. Let's keep the interpretation of "bagatelle" in the time context when Beethoven wrote these; modern uses - and modern interpretations - of the word should have little bearing on how we view these pieces and what (we think) Beethoven probably meant by the title.

Regards,
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#1444901 - 05/27/10 04:49 PM Re: what is a bagatelle? [Re: BruceD]
JimF Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/08/09
Posts: 1950
Loc: south florida
Quote:
Imagine Bill Gates buying Apple and saying it cost him une bagatelle ; in that case, the word would retain it's original meaning of "trivial" - but still, be tinted with a glimmer of irony, as Mr. Gates very well-knows it still was quite the sum of money.


Current market cap of Apple $230 Billion

Current market cap of Microsoft $227 Billion, of which Mr. Gates owns less than 10%.

So, that's one heck of a big bagatelle he's about to bite into. sick
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#1445145 - 05/27/10 11:50 PM Re: what is a bagatelle? [Re: JimF]
Mark_C Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 20227
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: JimF
Current market cap of Apple $230 Billion
Current market cap of Microsoft $227 Billion....

I see that you made sure to include today's jumps.
Good job. smile
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#1445217 - 05/28/10 02:46 AM Re: what is a bagatelle? [Re: Mark_C]
landorrano Offline
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Registered: 02/26/06
Posts: 2521
Loc: France
And what is a badinerie?

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#1445437 - 05/28/10 12:53 PM Re: what is a bagatelle? [Re: landorrano]
moscheles001 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/13/08
Posts: 758
Loc: Northeast Pennsylvania
Originally Posted By: landorrano
And what is a badinerie?


An inerie that's gotten in with the wrong crowd.

[Sorry.]

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#1445783 - 05/29/10 01:01 AM Re: what is a bagatelle? [Re: moscheles001]
Ferdinand Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/23/07
Posts: 950
Loc: California
Beethoven called these pieces Kleinigkeiten. Can anyone say whether this term has connotations different from those of Bagatelle?

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#1445801 - 05/29/10 02:28 AM Re: what is a bagatelle? [Re: Ferdinand]
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
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Loc: Victoria, BC
Originally Posted By: Ferdinand
Beethoven called these pieces Kleinigkeiten. Can anyone say whether this term has connotations different from those of Bagatelle?


Beethoven apparently entitled them "Bagatelle," but, when writing about the Opus 126 in particular, referred to them as "... "Ciclus von Kleinigkeiten," a (cycle of little pieces) meant to be played as a set. The specific title "Bagatelle" seems to be Beethoven's own, while Kleinigkeiten seems just a general reference to how Beethoven considered them.

Regards,
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