Week 5 – Beethoven’s Blog

Posted on August, 12th 2021

Piano Sonata No. 14 in C♯ minor “Quasi una fantasia”, Op. 27, No. 2, popularly known as the “Moonlight Sonata”

After his Symphony no. 1 Opus 21 of 1799-1800, Beethoven turned his attention to piano sonatas and chamber music including sonatas for violin and piano and a trio for flute, violin, and viola.

In 1801 he published his Opus 27 nos. 1 and 2, the second of which is the famous “Moonlight” Sonata, a name attached forever to the piece by the poet Ludwig Rellstab, 5 years after Beethoven’s death.  The name has stuck as has our love for this wonderfully beautiful and rather challenging mysterious piece.

Interpreters have long wondered what tempo the first movement requires to fulfill the “quasi fantasia” description Beethoven gives. Then there is the almost funeral march character to the right hand melody that enters. While this movement is relatively short, it takes us on a very profound journey. A delightful Minuet and Trio relieves the tension and carries us forward to the incredibly raucous, fiery and tempestuous finale. How unusual for a sonata to start with a slow movement and then end with all the fireworks in the last. And to subtitle it “Quasi una Fantasia”! Beethoven the revolutionary! Our hero continues to emerge. Listen and enjoy this wonderful recording by the great Claudio Arrau.