Piano Sonata No. 14 (Beethoven)

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Title page of the first edition of the score, published in 1802 in Vienna by Gio. Cappi e Comp.[1]

The Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor "Quasi una fantasia", Op. 27, No. 2, popularly known as the Moonlight Sonata, is a piano sonata by Ludwig van Beethoven. Completed in 1801 and dedicated in 1802 to his student, Countess Giulietta Guicciardi, it is one of Beethoven's most popular musical compositions for the piano.

Names[change | change source]

The first edition of the score has Sonata quasi una fantasia written as the heading, a title this work shares with its companion piece, Op. 27, No. 1.[2] Grove Music Online translates the Italian title as "sonata in the manner of a fantasy".[3]

The name "Moonlight Sonata" started to become in use after the comments made by German music critic and poet Ludwig Rellstab about what the music reminded him of. In 1832, five years after Beethoven's death, Rellstab imagined the effect of the first movement like a moonlight shining above Lake Lucerne.[4] Many agreed to this idea, and within ten years, the name "Moonlight Sonata" ("Mondscheinsonate" in German) was being used in German[5] and English[6] publications. Later in the 19th century, it could be said that the sonata was "universally known" by that name.[7]

Many critics have disagreed to the subjective, Romantic nature of the title "Moonlight", which has often been called "a misleading approach to a movement with almost the character of a funeral march"[8] and "absurd".[9] Other critics have approved of the nickname, finding it memorable[10] or similar to their own connections with the work.[11] Gramophone founder Compton Mackenzie found the title "harmless", saying that "it is silly for austure critics to work themselves up into a state of almost hysterical rage with poor Rellstab", and adding, "what these austere critics fail to grasp is that unless the general public had responded to the suggestion of moonlight in this music Rellstab's remark would long ago have been forgotten."[12]

Form[change | change source]

Although there is no direct reason as to why Beethoven decided to title both the Op. 27 works as Sonata quasi una fantasia, it may be important that the layout of the present work does not follow the traditional movement arrangement in the Classical period of fast-slow-[fast]-fast. Instead, the sonata has an end-weighted path, with the faster more technically complex music saved until the third movement. In his analysis, German critic Paul Bekker says that "The opening sonata-allegro movement gave the work a definite character from the beginning... which succeeding movements could supplement but not change. Beethoven rebelled against this determinative quality in the first movement. He wanted a prelude, an introduction, not a proposition.”[13]

The sonata consists of three movements:

  1. Adagio sostenuto
  2. Allegretto
  3. Presto agitato

Adagio sostenuto[change | change source]

Beethoven piano sonata 14 mvmt 1 bar 1-4.svg

Allegretto[change | change source]

Beethoven piano sonata 14 mvmt 2 bar 1-8.svg

Presto agitato[change | change source]

Beethoven piano sonata 14 mvmt 3 bar 1-3.svg

Notes[change | change source]

  1. The title page is in Italian, and reads SONATA quasi una FANTASIA per il Clavicembalo o Piano=forte composta e dedicata alla Damigella Contessa Giulietta Guicciardi da Luigi van Beethoven Opera 27 No. 2. In Vienna presso Gio. Cappi Sulla Piazza di St. Michele No. 5. (In English, "Sonata, almost a fantasia for harpsichord or pianoforte. Composed, and dedicated to Mademoiselle Countess Giulietta Guicciardi, by Ludwig van Beethoven. Opus 27 No. 2. Published in Vienna by Giovanni Cappi, Michaelerplatz No. 5.") The suggestion that the work could be performed on the harpsichord reflected a common marketing practice of music publishers in the early 19th century (Siepmann 1998, 60).
  2. "Ludwig van Beethoven, Sonate für Klavier (cis-Moll) op. 27, 2 (Sonata quasi una fantasia), Cappi, 879". Beethovenhaus. http://www.beethoven-haus-bonn.de/sixcms/detail.php?id=&template=dokseite_digitales_archiv_en&_eid=&_ug=&_werkid=27&_dokid=T00011830&_opus=op.%2027&_mid=&suchparameter=&_sucheinstieg=&_seite=1. Retrieved January 12, 2012.
  3. "Quasi". Grove Music Online (Oxford Music Online). http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/22660. Retrieved January 7, 2012.
  4. Beethoven, Ludwig van (2004). Beethoven: The Man and the Artist, as Revealed in His Own Words. 1st World Publishing. p. 47. ISBN 978-1-59540-149-6 .
  5. See. e.g., Allgemeiner musikalischer Anzeiger. Vol. 9, No. 11, Tobias Haslinger, Vienna, 1837, p. 41.
  6. See, e.g., Ignace Moscheles, ed. The Life of Beethoven. Henry Colburn pub., vol. II, 1841, p. 109.
  7. Aunt Judy's Christmas Volume. H.K.F. Gatty, ed., George Bell & Sons, London, 1879, p. 60.
  8. Kennedy, Michael. "Moonlight Sonata", from Oxford Dictionary of Music 2nd edition. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2006 rev., p. 589.
  9. "Moonlight Sonata", from Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians. J.A. Fuller Maitland, ed., Macmillan and Co., London, 1907, p. 256.
  10. Dubal, David. The Art of the Piano. Amadeus Press, 2004, p. 411.
  11. See, e.g., Wilkinson, Charles W. Well-known Piano Solos: How to Play Them. Theo. Presser Co., Philadelphia, 1915, p.31.
  12. Mackenzie, Compton. "The Beethoven Piano Sonatas", from The Gramophone, Aug. 1940, p. 5.
  13. Maynard Solomon, Beethoven (New York: Schirmer Books, 1998), p. 139

References[change | change source]

  • Rosenblum, Sandra P. (1988) Performance Practices in Classic Piano Music: Their Principles and Applications. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
  • Siepmann, Jeremy (1998) The Piano: The Complete Illustrated Guide to the World's Most Popular Musical Instrument.
  • Woodstra, Chris, et. al. 2005. All Music Guide to Classical Music. All Media Guide, LLC. p. 109. ISBN 0-87930-865-6.

Other websites[change | change source]

Scores[change | change source]