BEETHOVEN Ludwig Van, ‘Moonlight’ Sonata: Piano Sonata in C sharp minor, Op.27 No.2
In 1801 Beethoven was preoccupied for two reasons. The first was the increasing problem he was having with his hearing. The second was altogether happier: “a dear, magical girl who loves me and whom I love”, as he told an old friend in a letter. In the same letter he even spoke of marriage: “this it is the first time that I have felt that marriage might make one happy.” The “magical girl” was Giulietta Guicciardi who had met Beethoven in 1800 when he started to give her piano lesson. Alas, the magic was not to last as Giulietta married a Count in 1803 – but the musical result is one of Beethoven’s most famous piano sonatas.
The second of his Op.27 sonatas subtitled “quasi una fantasia”, has become universally known as the “Moonlight” – a nickname that derived from a description in 1832 by the critic and poet Ludwig Rellstab who likened the first movement to moonlight shining on Lake Lucerne. The form is unusually free: after the dreamy, slow opening movement, the second is a moment of repose before the angry outburst of the finale – clearly it’s not a portrait of Giulietta, even if Beethoven’s “magical girl” had been the inspiration for this highly original masterpiece.
Nigel Simeone © 2012