The Treaty of Utrecht concluded the War of Spanish Succession in 1713. Its terms were agreed principally between the British and the opposing French, but this caused disaffection among Britain’s German allies, including the Elector of Hanover (soon to be George I). The Elector was also disgruntled that his Kapellmeister Handel, absent and pursuing lucrative freelance jobs in London, composed a large-scale Te Deum and Jubilate for the Service of Thanksgiving held in Wren’s recently completed St Paul’s Cathedral.
Like Gilels, Brendel treats the Op. 35 Variations as far more than a poor relation of the Eroica Symphony finale. His approach has less of the urgent, seemingly improvisatory thrust which makes the Gilels DG performance (on LP only) so compelling, but the sharpness with which he characterizes each variation is a delight, each time bringing a moment of revelation, and often relating this essentially middle-period work to much later inspirations. The six Bagatelles of Op. 126 equally find Brendel giving these fragments a weight, concentration and seriousness to reflect what else Beethoven was writing at the time. There is a gruffness of expression with charm eliminated. The third Bagatelle is the more moving for its simple gravity, and only in the final one of the group does Brendel allow himself to relax in persuasive warmth. Fur Elise makes a simple, haunting prelude to the group and the six Ecossaises a jolly postude with Brendel evoking the bluff jollity of Austrian dance music.