Piano Sonata No. 14 (Beethoven)

Piano Sonata No. 14 (Beethoven)

The Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor "Quasi una fantasia"", Op. 27, No. 2, by Ludwig van Beethoven, is popularly known as the "Moonlight" Sonata. The work was completed in 1801 and rumored to be dedicated to his pupil, 17-year-old Countess Giulietta Guicciardi, [cite book
first=Max Wade
title=The encyclopedia of Music
] with whom Beethoven was, or had been, in love. [cite book
last =Morris
first =Edmund
authorlink =Edmund Morris (writer)
title =
publisher =HarperCollins
year =2005
pages =93-94
isbn =0060759747
] The name "Moonlight" Sonata derives from an 1832 description of the first movement by music critic Ludwig Rellstab, who compared it to moonlight shining upon Lake Lucerne. [cite book
last =Beethoven
first =Ludwig van
title =Beethoven: The Man and the Artist, as Revealed in His Own Words
publisher =1st World Publishing
year =2004
pages =47
isbn =1595401490
] cite album-notes
title = Piano Sonatas Nos. 8, 14 and 23
albumlink = Piano Sonata No. 14 (Beethoven)
bandname = Jenő Jandó
year = 1988
notestitle =
url = http://www.naxosdirect.com/title/8.550045
publisher = Naxos Records
publisherid = 8550045

Beethoven included the phrase "Quasi una fantasia" (Italian: "Almost a fantasy") ["Grove Music Online" (the article "Quasi"): "sonata in the manner of a fantasy"; the rubric "sonata quasi una fantasia" is also used for the preceding piano sonata, Op. 27 no. 1.] in the title partly because the sonata does not follow the traditional sonata pattern where the first movement is in regular sonata form, and where the three or four movements are arranged in a fast-slow- [fast] -fast sequence.

The work is possibly the most familiar of all Beethoven's piano sonatas, and is widely performed and recorded. The first movement is frequently played by amateur pianists.


The sonata has three movements:

#"Adagio sostenuto"
#"Presto agitato"

The first movement is written in a kind of truncated sonata form. A melody that Hector Berlioz called a "lamentation" is played (mostly by the right hand) against an accompanying ostinato triplet rhythm. The movement is also played "pianissimo" or "very quietly", and the loudest it gets is "mezzo-forte" or "moderately loud". The movement has made a powerful impression on many listeners; for instance, Berlioz wrote that it "is one of those poems that human language does not know how to qualify." The work was very popular in Beethoven's day, to the point of exasperating the composer, who remarked to Czerny, "Surely I've written better things." ["Life of Beethoven", Alexander Wheelock Thayer, ed. Elliot Forbes, Princeton 1967]

The second movement is a relatively conventional minuet and trio; a moment of relative calm written in D-flat major. This key signature is enharmonically equivalent to C-sharp major, that is, the tonic major for the work as a whole. The slightly odd sound of the first eight bars seems to be the result of the minuet starting in the "wrong" key; "i.e." the dominant key of A-flat major. The music settles into D-flat only in the second phrase, bars 5-10.

The stormy final movement, in sonata form, is the weightiest of the three, reflecting an experiment of Beethoven's (also carried out in the companion sonata, Opus 27 no. 1 and later on in Opus 101) placement of the most important movement of the sonata last. The writing has many fast arpeggios and strongly accented notes, and an effective performance demands flamboyant and skillful playing.

Of the final movement, Charles Rosen has written "it is the most unbridled in its representation of emotion. Even today, two hundred years later, its ferocity is astonishing."

The musical dynamic that predominates in the third movement is in fact "piano". It seems that Beethoven's heavy use of sforzando notes, together with just a few strategically located fortissimo passages, creates the sense of a very powerful sound in spite of the overall dynamic.

Beethoven's pedal mark

At the opening of the work, Beethoven included a written direction that the sustain pedal should be depressed for the entire duration of the first movement. The Italian reads: "Si deve suonare tutto questo pezzo delicatissimamente e senza sordino" ("Play this whole piece [meaning "movement"] very delicately and without dampers."). The modern piano has a much longer sustain time than the instruments of Beethoven's day. Therefore, his instruction cannot be followed by pianists playing modern instruments without creating an unpleasantly dissonant sound.

One option for dealing with this problem is to perform the work on a restored or replicated piano of the kind Beethoven knew. Proponents of historically informed performance using such pianos have found it feasible to perform the work respecting Beethoven's original direction.

For performance on the modern piano, most performers today try to achieve an effect similar to what Beethoven asked for using pedal changes only where necessary to avoid excessive dissonance. For instance, the Ricordi edition of the score posted at the external link given below does include pedal marks throughout the first movement. These are the work of a 20th century editor, meant to facilitate performance on a modern instrument. "Half pedaling"—a technique involving a partial depression of the damper pedal—is also often used to simulate the shorter sustain of the early nineteenth century pedal. Charles Rosen suggests both half-pedaling and releasing the pedal a fraction of a second late. [cite book|author=Charles Rosen|year=2002|id=0300090706|publisher=Yale University Press|title=Beethoven's Piano Sonatas: A Short Companion]

Audio samples

multi-listen item|filename=Ludwig van Beethoven - sonata no. 14 in c sharp minor 'moonlight', op. 27 no. 2 - i. adagio sostenuto.ogg|title=1st Movement:Adagio sostenuto|description=Performed by Robin Alciatore. Courtesy of [http://www.musopen.com Musopen] |format=ogg


External links

* [http://classicalmusicblog.com/2007/09/beethoven-sonata.html Detailed analysis and recordings review of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata]
*The [http://www.all-about-beethoven.com/moonsonata.html Moonlight Sonata Page] .
* [http://www.superopera.com/CLARO/claro.htm Recordings of this Sonata by Alberto Cobo]
* For a public domain recording of this sonata visit [http://musopen.com Musopen]


*Score of the "Moonlight" Sonata, typeset and placed in the public domain by Chris Sawer, is part of the Mutopia project. Available at [http://www.mutopiaproject.org/cgibin/make-table.cgi?Composer=BeethovenLv] .
**1st Movement: Adagio sostenuto, local copy: ()
**1st Movement: Adagio sostenuto, 2nd Movement: Allegretto and 3rd Movement: Presto agitato: [http://www.mutopiaproject.org/ftp/BeethovenLv/O27/moonlight/moonlight-a4.pdf PDF Version]
*mutopia|276|Sonata No. 14
* The William and Gayle Cook Music Library at the Indiana University School of Music has posted a scan of the [http://www.dlib.indiana.edu/variations/scores/aek3910/index1.html score (Ricordi edition)] .

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