Playing Beethoven's 32 Piano Sonatas

Piano Sonata in C-sharp minor, Op. 27/2 ("Moonlight")

Well-known works tend to encourage odd performances, primarily because pianists feel a heightened obligation to do something new. A quick survey of available recordings verifies that the Moonlight sonata falls victim to such eccentricities. Several writings on the work attempt to stuff the opening movement into sonata form. Aside from being misleading, this practice detracts from the main musical interest of the Adagio: the changing harmonic palette under a common texture. Consider this analogy: an indistinguishable wash of color adorned with points of light here and there that stand out from the homogenous surface. In contrast to the opening, the second movement is characterized by a clear, four-voiced texture. Here Beethoven plays a rhythmic game with the listener, who might first hear the opening note as a downbeat in duple time. This can be used to great effect by the pianist. The finale's technical difficulty makes it vulnerable to over-pedalling. By maintaining clarity in the opening arpeggios, one can use pedal to change the colour of the music when desired. Otherwise this valuable resource for sound variation is lost on glossing over technical inaccuracies.

I. Adagio Sostenuto

• first half with rubato • first half without rubato

NOTES: Was Beethoven a classical composer or a romantic? Although this question would have had no meaning whatsoever in his time, it is worth contemplating, if only because the performance history of this work is affected by the answer. I have included two recordings of the movement's first half: one uses rubato and the other does not. Whichever approach one takes, honing your ear in on the work's harmonic palette and focusing it there promises to yield a good result. I prefer a faster tempo than most—a choice justified by my interpretation of the cut time marking. As far as I know, András Schiff pioneered this approach.


II. Allegretto - Coming Soon!



III. Presto agitato - Coming Soon!