• Pathetique and Moonlight Sonatas

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    Sonata Pathetique opus13 in C minor
    00:00 1st movt
    06:48 2nd movt
    11:42 3rd movt

    Sonata opus 14 no. 2 in G major
    16:31 1st movt
    22:01 2nd movt
    26:43 3rd movt

    Sonata opus 27 no. 2 in C# minor 'Moonlight'
    30:13 1st movt
    36:35 2nd movt
    38:30 3rd movt

    I recorded these three Beethoven sonatas on my Steinway B grand piano at an afternoon recital at my home at Roseville, Sydney, in 1991.

    What young music pupil has not at some stage been 'put to' the Pathetique Sonata? The title may have come from the publisher and best translates into English as 'tragic', which quality is evident from the first chord. No other sonata by Beethoven opens in this way. The tragic quality is also present in the final movement which up to that time was almost always in a lighter mood. The mood of the slow movement is contrasted with that of the outer movements.

    Beethoven wrote three sonatas in the key of G major. This one is very 'classical' in terms of the form of each of its three movements although in place of the traditional slow movement there is a set of variations on an andante theme. The final movement in sonata/rondo form is in essence a scherzo and is full of Beethoven's rather earthy sense of humour.

    Beethoven's 'Moonlight' Sonata needs no introduction. It is the most popular piano work ever composed if the survey by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is any guide. Beethoven called it 'Sonata quasi una fantasia' in the light of the fact that the slow movement is at the start of the Sonata, not in the middle as is traditional. The second movement, a minuet and trio in the classical tradition, contrasts with the mood of the outer movements. The final movement, in sonata/rondo form, with all its themes in the minor key, offers a headlong rush to a tragic denouement.

    Beethoven dedicated the 'Moonlight' Sonata to his seventeen year old pupil, the Countess Giulietta Guicciardi. It seems that Beethoven proposed and was accepted but her parents must have vetoed the idea because she entered an arranged marriage soon after. When that marriage later failed she tried, unsuccessfully, to re-connect with Beethoven.

    I have discussed in two of my publications the controversial question of the meaning of Beethoven's directions as to the raising of the dampers throughout the first movement of the 'Moonlight' Sonata. In this performance I take the usual course of changing the raised dampers (by means of the sustaining pedal) with each fresh harmony. This was in fact the course that Beethoven's pupil Carl Czerny recommended. The actual device used in Europe in 1801, when Beethoven composed his 'Moonlight' Sonata, consisted of a lever operated by each knee which together produced the same effect as the sustaining pedal which came into general use not long after. Show less
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