New Beethoven recording

27 August 2008

Für Elise, Bagatelles for piano by Ludwig Van Beethoven, by Stephanie McCallum
Für Elise, Bagatelles for piano by Ludwig Van Beethoven, by Stephanie McCallum

The Sydney Conservatorium of Music's Stephanie McCallum has recorded what is believed to be Beethoven's last piano work.

Stephanie's husband Peter McCallum, Associate Professor of Musicology with the University of Sydney, discovered the tiny piece during his study of the 'Kullak sketchbook', one of Beethoven's working documents full of ideas, jotted notes and musical fragments. He noticed what he calls the 'Bagatelle in F minor' in the middle of Beethoven's sketches for the String Quartet Op. 135.

"The piece is written over two pages in the sketchbook and is played here exactly as Beethoven wrote it, with all repeats as he marked them," says Peter.

"Although short, it is clearly a complete piece and almost certainly was conceived for the piano. It is the kind of piece that Beethoven might later have returned to and turned into a more extended bagatelle, just as he had in the case of the first six pieces of Op. 119. Since he did not, it can be taken as his last thoughts on what appears to be the last piano piece that he wrote."

The tiny work (54 seconds long) is the last track on Für Elise, a collection of Beethoven piano miniatures recorded by Stephanie McCallum for a new CD from ABC Classics. The title work is the best-known, and beloved of many keyboard beginners, but given a glowing professional touch here.

'Bagatelle' usually indicates a trifle, a small playful piece. However, Beethoven's collections of such works took on an artistically satisfying unity - he was careful to arrange many of them in loosely unified cycles. His complete collections of Bagatelles, Opp. 33, 119, and 126 are partnered on this album by other assorted miniatures.

From the Kullak Sketchbook, Beethoven's last such book, we hear the world premiere Bagatelle in F minor, a Waltz, an Ecossaise, and also three incomplete fragments which have been edited and arranged for performance by Peter McCallum. The record's producer, Ralph Lane, christened these works 'Fragatelles' and they make a charming new contribution to Beethoven's piano repertoire.

Stephanie McCallum

Stephanie McCallum is a Senior Lecturer in Piano at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, and well-known to concert audiences around Australia and in the UK. Her previous recordings for ABC Classics include the best-selling Perfume (French piano music); the complete sonatas of Weber and albums of works by Liszt, Satie and Alkan.

Listen to an excerpt of Fur Elise taken from the CD.

Contact: Kath Kenny

Phone: 02 9351 2261 or 0434 606 100