A critical reinterpretation of the Beethoven Bagatelles Op. 126
This dissertation examines the dialectic between fragmentation and cohesion in six late
Beethoven Bagatelles. Fragmentary aspects affect the form, structure and rhetoric of
each Bagatelle, and ultimately how a cyclic whole can be perceived. In form, the
movements suggest aspects of larger-scale genres, and in structure they allude to
archetypal patterns within the Classical style; however, both types of allusion are
'disturbed' by emergent patterns in the music. The dichotomy of fragmentation and
cohesion creates a tension which results in a multi-movement cycle permeated with
formal and structural ambiguities.
I apply various analytical and critical strategies in this enquiry; structural analysis,
semiotics and early-nineteenth-century aesthetics and cultural thoughts. Analytical
readings are perceived through Schenker's theoretical argument, and I consider the
compositional methods of Joachim Riepel and Heinrich Koch in relation to the
expansion of a melodic segment. Whilst these two approaches show the degree of
cohesion that exists within the cycle, Beethoven's radical play with Classical style
patterns frequently results in formal surface articulations conflicting with the underlying
levels of harmony and voice-leading.
To examine the idea of a fragment, I have selected aphorisms from the critical writings
of Friedrich Schlegel, and through metaphorical association the interpretations have
been related to the syntax and semantic fields of the six Bagatelles. While the principal
goal is to formulate an original interpretation of the Beethoven BagateIles Op.126, it has
also been necessary to relate these findings to the critical framework which has
traditionally held sway in discussions of Beethoven's middle and late period works.