Editors’ Notes When exploring Beethoven’s music, it’s perhaps all too easy to dive into the symphonies, sonatas, and string quartets. That’s understandable—they’re among the greatest collections of masterpieces ever composed. But what about the lesser-known works? The pieces that have, for one reason or another, found themselves down the back of the classical music sofa, once loved but now forgotten. In this collection, Matthias Kirschnereit guides us on a journey of Beethovenian discovery. “I didn’t know most of the music on this album either!” the German pianist tells Apple Music. “The process of looking for pieces that were interesting was so fascinating and thrilling.” Beethoven: Unknown Solo Piano Works is not, however, a random collection of rarities. “I wanted to include pieces Beethoven wrote at the age of 12 years as well as the very last piece he wrote for the piano, in 1825.” Kirschnereit has ensured that every piano form the composer wrote is represented here, too, including a sonata, sonatina, bagatelle, variations, and a rondo. Here he takes us through that magical journey, piece by piece.

Polonaise in C Major, Op. 89
“This is absolutely pure joy—a sparkling, humorous piece that’s full of unexpected surprises. Beethoven dedicated it to the wife of the Russian tsar Alexander. What’s fascinating is how he uses the polonaise rhythm but plays with it in a unique way: There’s lots of improvisation and spirit within.”

Allegretto in C Minor, WoO 53
“Now we move on to a very deep, dark piece. Schumann’s Piano Quartet may have been inspired by its passion and its central E-flat major passage. The ending is very fragile and poetic, like a Schubert song, almost as if Beethoven is looking toward the music of the 19th century.”

Bagatelle, WoO 54 (Lustig und traurig)
“‘Lustig und traurig’—happy and sad—captures human beings in two general states of mood. Either you are happy or unhappy but, of course, in between there are thousands of emotions! At first listen, it’s a very simple, naive piece, but there are many variations of joy, for example: Sometimes it’s more fragile, sometimes more self-confident.”

Rondo in C Major, WoO 48
“The Rondo in C Major was written when Beethoven was 13 years old. There are hints of Mozart and Haydn, but you can already hear Beethoven’s self-confidence. I add some ornamentation and scales here and there to highlight the fact that much music of the day was improvised.”

Bagatelle in C Minor, WoO 52
“So dramatic—it seems to me to be a precursor of the Fifth Symphony. It's not only in the same key of C minor, but it has the same knocking rhythm: ba ba ba baaaa! The whole piece emerges from that tiny phrase. The trio sounds so modern with its scales going up and down.”

Prelude in F Minor, WoO 55
“This was really a wonderful and very touching discovery for me. For me, it’s an intimate conversation between Beethoven and J.S. Bach, written in 1803 when Beethoven already knew he was going deaf. It’s a very touching, sad piece that goes deep into your soul.”

Sonata in F Minor, WoO 47
“Aside from the 32 piano sonatas, there are three wonderful juvenile piano sonatas Beethoven wrote at the age of around 12. This is the best. It’s a mature piece in F minor, which was a very important key for him—the ‘Appassionata’ Sonata is in F minor, and so is his Sonata No. 1. The first movement of this early sonata is full of passion with surprising harmonic twists, while in the second movement he writes for the piano but in his mind hears an orchestra. You can almost sense the woodwind and French horns. The final movement is dramatic and restless.”

7 Ländler in D Major, WoO 11
“Beethoven wanted his music to reach everybody, not just musically educated people. Sometimes his music is very easygoing. It’s not superficial, but it’s just there to enjoy. These little dances are so physical, joyful, and rousing—you really want to start dancing!”

Piano Piece for Piringer in B Minor, WoO 61
“This is a very personal, melancholy, and introverted work—it was written late in Beethoven’s life, in 1821, when he loved to concentrate on polyphony. It’s dedicated to someone called Ferdinand Piringer and is, perhaps, one of those pieces that might have been a spontaneous gift.”

Piano Piece in B-Flat Major, WoO 60
“Here’s an absolutely astonishing short, little piece. There’s so much in such a short time—everything written in just a few lines. It’s so condensed, like the music of Anton Webern: In just a few little notes you can find every emotion, every feeling, every thought.”

Ecossaises in E-Flat Major, WoO 83
“The Écossaise originally comes from Scotland, and these dances are like six variations of joy. Some are charming while some are more rough and down-to-earth. I play them all very freely and try to give every dance a different character. The music is fascinating, charming, and sometimes coquettish.”

Minuet in E-Flat Major, WoO 82
“I love this minuet so much. It reminds me in some places of the beginning of the Sonata Op. 31 No. 3 ‘La Chasse’—it’s in the same key and it has the same harmonic construction. The trio is written as if it could be played by a string quartet.”

Sonatina in F Major, Kinsky Halm Anh. 5 No. 2
“This is the only piece here that’s not proven 100 percent to be composed by Beethoven. It’s always published under Beethoven’s name—who else in this time could have composed such a unique and characteristic piece? It has a real sparkling, lively spirit and the rondo is full of humor. In some places it’s really crazy!”

6 Variations in F Major, Op. 34
“I fell in love with these variations when I heard them as a student, performed by Alfred Brendel in Hamburg. I was so surprised and didn’t expect Beethoven to sound so modern. Each variation is in a different key and time signature—and each is like a lyrical song without words.”

Waltz in E-Flat Major, WoO 84
Waltz—I think it was written in 1824, so it's a very late Beethoven and, especially in the trio, you hear the late Beethoven when he loved his wide ranges on the piano, the right hand really going up and the left hand really going down. And, yeah, I love the simplicity and the depth.”

Andante in C Major, WoO 211
“This little piece is a miracle, but you have to read between the lines to discover its depths. It’s a very fragile, vulnerable piece—very personal.”

Piano Piece in G Minor, WoO 61a
“So, this is Beethoven’s last work for piano solo—he wrote these two lines in 1825 and gave them to Sarah Payne, the daughter of the English music historian Charles Burney, as a keepsake. Even in this very short piece, you can hear Beethoven’s love for polyphony.”

SONG
Polonaise in C Major, Op. 89
1
 
Allegretto in C Minor, WoO 53
2
 
Bagatelle, WoO 54 (Lustig und traurig)
3
 
Rondo in C Major, WoO 48
4
 
Bagatelle in C Minor, WoO 52
5
 
Prelude in F Minor, WoO 55
6
 
Sonata in F Minor, WoO 47
Sonata in F Minor, WoO 47: I. Larghetto maestoso
7
 
Sonata in F Minor, WoO 47: II. Andante
8
 
Sonata in F Minor, WoO 47: III. Presto
9
 
7 Ländler in D Major, WoO 11
10
 
Piano Piece for Piringer in B Minor, WoO 61
11
 
Piano Piece in B-Flat Major, WoO 60
12
 
Ecossaises in E-Flat Major, WoO 83
13
 
Minuet in E-Flat Major, WoO 82
14
 
Sonatina in F Major, Kinsky Halm Anh.5 No. 2
Sonatina in F Major, Kinsky Halm Anh.5 No. 2: I. Allegro assai
15
 
Sonatina in F Major, Kinsky Halm Anh.5 No. 2: II. Rondo. Allegro
16
 
6 Variations in F Major, Op. 34
17
 
Waltz in E-Flat Major, WoO 84
18
 
Andante in C Major, WoO 211
19
 
Piano Piece in G Minor, WoO 61a
20
 

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