I HAVE chosen the first movement of the Sonata in C sharp minor of Ludwig Van Beethoven, commonly known as the “Moonlight Sonata,” as the subject of my specimen lesson, because it is so universally beloved by all sorts and conditions of people, and is so well known. It is, therefore, one which all students of the pianoforte must learn. I will first give a short history of the Sonata, as this should also be of special interest to students.
The Sonata in C sharp minor, which was entitled by Beethoven himself “Quasi una Fantasia,” was one of two sonatas written in the year 1801 and published in March, 1802, and forming together Opus 27.
These years of 1801 and 1802 were of great creative activity on the part of Beethoven, and his works produced during this time belong to what is general classified as the Master’s second period. Grove says that the Sonata in C sharp minor was dedicated to the Contessa Gulietta Guicciardi, and much romance has been invented on this score.
But the lady herself rather discounts this romance by recounting how Beethoven gave her the Rondo in G, and then, wanting to dedicate something to the Princess Lichnowsky, he took the Rondo away and gave the Contessa the” Moonlight Sonata” in its place. In my own edition of the Sonata, which is an old one published by Hallberger in Stuttgart in 1858, and edited by Moscheles, the pianist, a personal friend of Beethoven, it is stated to be dedicated to the Princess of Liechtenstein.
The title ” The Moonlight,” was supposed to have been given to the Sonata by Rellstab, a celebrated contemporary musical critic, who compared the first movement to a moonlight scene on the Lake of Lucerne. But it may also have received the name from a publisher who, after the custom of publishers, christened several of Beethoven’s sonatas by various titles in order to make them more popular with the public (such as the “Pathetique,” “Pastorale,” ” Les Adieux, L’Absence, Le Retour,” etc.).
I myself think the title of “Moonlight” not inappropriate to the spirit of the first movement of the C sharp minor Sonata, which reflects the romantic atmosphere and mysterious light and shade connected with the presence of the moon. But certainly the last movement has nothing to do with moonlight, but represents a great storm of emotion, where all is cloud, wind and fury.