A Review of the Moonlight Sonata
I truly enjoyed the item, Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 14, or the Moonlight Sonata. One of the reasons I liked this piece is that it’s very intriguing to listen to. It employs a variety of dynamics, rhythms, and structures throughout, ensuring each part of the piece remains musically engaging without being repetitive. Plus, the progression of dynamics, rhythms, and structures follow a clear path, aiding me to easily follow along with the piece and understand the overall trajectory. I also enjoyed this performer, Claudio Arrau, and his interpretation of this piece because his performance extends beyond the piano to his physicality. He evidently revels in performing this piece, which magnifies my enjoyment too.
The piece begins in a very structured manner, a slow and steady tempo, with a familiar structure and melodic line throughout the movement. However, as the second movement commences, the piece becomes more unpredictable. The introduction of staccato chords, along with a broader range of dynamics and note lengths, is surprising and begins to convey the sense that the structure from the first movement is deteriorating. Despite being the shortest of the movements, it serves as a pivotal transition into the third and final movement.
How it works
At this point, any semblance of structure from the first movement has completely disintegrated. We’re left with a broad range of dynamics, a faster tempo than experienced so far, and rapid transitions between differing expressions. What’s most striking about this movement are the sudden changes in dynamics and the abrupt transitions from one musical phrase to the next. This concludes the breakdown of the musical structure, transitioning from calm and structured to frenzied and chaotic. Beethoven composed Moonlight Sonata in 1801, at just thirty years old.
This piece was written shortly after a freak accident left him deaf, which might explain the disintegration of structure in this piece. It mirrors the deterioration he experienced in his own life, most notably the loss of his hearing. As Beethoven himself confessed, “I must admit that I am living a dog’s life. For almost two years I have ceased to attend any social events, simply because I find it impossible to say to people: I am deaf. If I had any other profession it would be easier, but in my profession, it is a dreadful handicap.” The disintegration in the music could have, therefore, been inspired by the decline of his hearing.
We discussed dynamics in class on Tuesday, as well as the concept of legato. These two ideas are very important in this piece. The legato parts and consistent dynamics create a sense of stability, while the staccato sections and sudden dynamic shifts evoke a sense of franticness that we find in the second and third movements.