This week you will be listening to Beethoven’s piano sonata in C# minor frequently referred to as the “Moonlight” Sonata. Just as many of you would recognize the opening motive of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, so many of you will recognize the opening triplet figure of this beloved piece. However, my goal for you for this week in your listening is two-fold- 1.) to listen to the entire first movement and be able to recognize more than just the opening few measures; 2.) to listen to all three movements of this Sonata. Be able to answer these questions about this Sonata: Is the first movement in a major or minor key? Is the second movement in a major or minor key? Is the third movement in a major or minor key? What is the character of the second movement? What is the character of the third movement? Notice how the calm triplet figure of the first movement is transformed to a wild and ferocious triplet in the third movement. Listening to it will inspire you to practice your scales and arpeggios!
A Sonata is made up of of three to four movements generally following a fast, slow, fast format in terms of the tempi. However, in this Sonata, the “Moonlight”, Beethoven gives us a slow, meditative tempo, followed by a brighter Allegretto speed for the second movement and finishing with a tempestuous Presto Agitato for the final movement. Beethoven did not name his Sonata the “moonlight” sonata and the many myths surrounding how he wrote it , such as sitting on his piano bench with the moonlight streaming over his shoulder while he puts quill to paper, are simply that- a myth. However, the fact that Beethoven was a highly skilled composer who worked hard at his craft, does not take away from the magic of this piece. Beethoven was forging new ground in this Sonata by not following the traditional ABA form for Sonatas and instead creating an entire movement on just that one simple rhythmic figure.
Enjoy hearing this inspiring work and look forward to when you can play it with your own two hands!