Bagatelle in B-flat 'Ziemlich Lebhaft', WoO 60 (mp3)
Author: Armando Orlandi
This enigmatic little piece was written "on commission" in the afternoon of August 14, 1818. It's very characteristic of Beethoven's third style period.
It starts with something that sounds like a warning. In this it resembles the last String Quartet, op.135, composed 8 years later. However, it's far from clear whether we should take this warning seriously or not. As in the last Quartet, everything appears in a haze of irony. Ridiculous things are said with a straight face, while the jokes convey deeper messages.
In the first 13 bars three different musical ideas, apparently unrelated, pass by in as many different keys, as if in an improvisation. When the music seems to settle down in the remote key of D-flat major, there is a crazy modulation from E-flat minor to D major. This modulation occurs precisely at the halfway point of the piece. It sounds clumsy, but at the same time creates the feeling of utter desolation.
Only from this point on does the composer seem to be somewhat concerned about the structure of his piece. A loose recapitulation of the opening phrase follows, enriched by counterpoint. This counterpoint should on no account be taken too seriously: it's more make-believe than anything else.
Quite understandably, this music may work on the nerves of certain sensitive people. But such a reaction will only serve to enhance the malicious joy of the composer.
In the end, the riddle remains.