Composed in 1800-1801, called Moonlight by the poet Ludwig Rellstab, the sonata Op. 27 #2 became one of the most famous of Beethoven's pieces almost immediately after its publication. It continues to fascinate the audience by the lyrical and dramatic first movement contrasting with the virtuoso violence of the third one. Even if the whole structure is not very original still deeply influenced by classicism this sonata sounds so romantic and new that it could be understood as a foreboding to later composers like Chopin or Liszt. Undeniable innovator, Beethoven wanted to compose a piece lightly different from a usual sonata. He designated it as sonata quasi una fantasia, a designation that has no readily apparent precedent . It was not only very rare to begin a piece in different parts with a slow movement, but also very bold to finish it with a so dramatic and active movement. Beethoven distorted the classical structure, making the climax occur at the end; it builds a huge tension all along this new musical architecture.
[...] In fact the last movement, as a response to the unacceptable resignation and the blind hope, proposes the realistic difficulties of life; it is challenging, in a word, a perpetual renewal of frustrations. The third movement is conventional by its form (sonata) but new by its content (violence of the emotions). This finale is the most important part of the sonata; its size and its climatic architecture are revolutionary for a piece composed in 1800. The beginning of the first theme (bars 1 to which is even not a real theme in a Mozartian sense, is a series of ascending arpeggios. [...]
[...] The first movement of the Moonlight, also very minimalist notice that Arvo Pärt quoted it in Spiegel im Spiegel), has this prelude quality that Bekker talked about, and that we can find in Wagner's opera. Liszt characterized the second movement as flower between two abysses”. It is a very short minuet in D-flat major (the equivalent of sharp major, which is the tonic major of C-sharp minor). It is graceful and delicate, creating a big contrast with the two other movements. [...]
[...] The figural tremolo-like accompaniment is also going up but on a smaller range; it is clearly a mean to bring instability and create a sensation of speed and furia in the whole movement. There is the same figure (down and up) but a little bit varied, thanks to a syncopated rhythm and heavier octaves. It finally goes down a little by steps with solemn half-note chords, like a clear refusal. After a new pause, fast running notes are going up moderately by steps but are also stopped three times by the C-sharp, until a more effective try to E. [...]
[...] However it should be pointed out that the passage in a major key which could embody a kind of hope or a discreet pleasure is very short and hardly noticeable. It sounds like a very fleeting thought which cannot dominate the dramatic reality at all. The coda is introduced by the same two bars of transition than between the exposition and the development (bars 63-64). It begins with a fragment of the first theme which always tries to get up after having been stopped by two chords. [...]
[...] Hector Berlioz defined the piece as a “lamentation”; he underlined large chords of a solemn, sad character” and added that length of these allows the vibrations of the piano to extend gradually over each one of them”. Beethoven stressed the vibrations to create a kind of misty atmosphere. The melody dramatically emerges from those chords and triplets. It is easily understandable that Rellstab moonlight in this flowing, delicate and tragic lamentation. What is particularly new is that this movement is the first of what should be a piano sonata. [...]
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