Ludwig Van Beethoven: Sonata Number 14 in C Minor, Opus 27/2 “Moonlight”

The Lizst Hungarian Rhapsody, which I discussed in my previous post, caused me to become aware of another dimension of classical music. For the most part, before hearing it, I’d only listened to orchestral music. Now all of a sudden along comes a piece in which a solo instrument, the piano, played as important a role as the orchestra. From there, I went on to become fascinated by works for solo piano and piano concertos. Once you start down that road, it’s a short step to becoming interested in other solo instruments, different performers and how they interpret the same piece.

Luckily for me, around the time I became interested in individual performers, some of the greatest ones were still alive. Many, like Rubenstein and Horowitz, were born early enough to have overlapped with the lives of the composers whose work they had become famous performing. Horowitz for example knew Scriabin and Rachmaninov, and Rubinstein was around 13 when Greig died.

I had the pleasure of seen Rubenstein on the Dick Cavett Show in the early 1970s. He struck me as a rather kind soul with a self-deprecating sense of humor. He must have been in his mid 80s at that time, and he laughed when he told the story of how his wife could hear him dropping notes when he played nowadays. I couldn’t tell, and he became my favorite performer. I bought his recordings of Greig, Brahms, Chopin and Beethoven.

Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata probably gets the most air play of the thirty two that he wrote over the course of his life. It dates from 1801, when he was 31, and it became an instant hit. Beethoven resented this popularity saying to a friend “Surely I have written better things.” The name Moonlight Sonata was given to it by a critic after Beethoven died, when in one of those fanciful review of the age, the writer linked it to Lake Lucerne in the moonlight.

It begins with a simple, one-two-three rhythm in one hand which is joined by a slow, quiet, and thoughtful melody in the other. The second movement skips along quietly with a kind of syncopated tune jumping back and forth between the hands. The ending is starts out soft but fast with a low, galloping, melody that boils up, explodes and then shoots off in another direction with an intricate flurry of keys. This repeats with several variations until the end. The finish blows out all those sad cobwebs one wades through.

Incredible that after nearly 200 years, it remains a popular piece. Incredible, too, that after over 20 year, it still holds my interest.


About kurtnemes
Writer and Education Professional. Specialties include Ethics, Personal Memoir, Classical music, Tai Chi, Stress Reduction, Meditation, Coping, Classical Music, Aging, Love, Joy, Compassion and Equanimity (& what interests me.)

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