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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from APR5636
Recording details: January 1937
HMV, United Kingdom
Release date: September 2009
Total duration: 14 minutes 7 seconds

Piano Sonata in C sharp minor 'Moonlight', Op 27 No 2
composer
1801; published in March 1802; No 14; Beethoven's subtitle is 'quasi una Fantasia'; the nickname 'Moonlight' comes from Ludwig Rellstab's description of the opening movement; dedicated to Countess Giulietta Guicciardi

Adagio sostenuto  [5'31]  recorded 30 January 1937
Allegretto  [2'21]  recorded 30 January 1937
Presto agitato  [6'15]  recorded 30 January 1937

Other recordings available for download
Artur Pizarro (piano)
Steven Osborne (piano)
Angela Hewitt (piano)
Stephen Hough (piano)
Harold Bauer (piano)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
If the title of the Op 13 Sonata at least has some semblance of authenticity, the same cannot be said of the nickname that has become attached to the second of the pair of sonatas Op 27. It was the poet and music critic Ludwig Rellstab who described its famous opening movement as evoking ‘a boat, visiting, by moonlight, the primitive landscapes of Lake Lucerne’. Curiously enough, to Beethoven’s pupil Carl Czerny, writing before Rellstab had penned his phrase, the sonata’s opening movement also suggested a nocturnal landscape. The piece, said Czerny, was ‘a night scene, in which the plaintive voice of a spirit is heard far in the distance’.

The Op 27 sonatas were issued in 1801, both of them with the sub-heading of ‘quasi una Fantasia’—a qualification indicating the freedom with which Beethoven was treating the traditional sonata design. The ‘Moonlight’ Sonata’s famous opening movement bears the direction: Si deve suonare tutto questo pezzo delicatissimamente e senza sordino (‘This entire piece must be played with the utmost delicacy, and without dampers’). ‘Senza sordino’ was Beethoven’s habitual marking at this stage of his career for the use of the sustaining pedal, and although on a modern piano his instruction needs to be treated with some caution, a certain degree of harmonic blurring is implied in order to convey the music’s unbroken atmosphere of plaintive mystery. Beethoven was to exploit similar overlapping pedal effects in the rondo theme of the ‘Waldstein’ Sonata.

As he was to do the following year in his ‘Tempest’ Sonata Op 31 No 2, Beethoven maintains the darkness of the minor mode throughout the two outer movements, while writing the middle movement entirely in the major. (‘A flower between two abysses’ was Liszt’s evocative description of the minuet-like second movement of Op 27 No 2.) The finale is an unrelentingly agitated piece whose coda, with its ‘strummed’ diminished-seventh chords sweeping up the keyboard, reaches new heights of turbulence. Not until the ‘Appassionata’ Op 57 did Beethoven write another finale for piano of comparable dramatic intensity.

from notes by Misha Donat © 2010


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