Moonlight Sonata Notes – Classical Music

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Ludwig van Beethoven composed the famous Moonlight Sonata in 1801, after agreeing to instruct Countess Giulietta Guicciardi, the cousin of his two students Therese and Josephine Brunsvik whom he had been teaching piano since 1799. Guiccaiardi was known for her beauty, and when she and her family moved to Vienna from Poland in 1800, she was quickly noticed by upper society. Shortly after their first few lessons, the two fell in love. When Beethoven finished his new Sonata, he dedicated it to Guicciardi, and it is believed he proposed to her quickly thereafter. Although she was willing to accept Beethoven’s proposal, one of her parents forbid her to ever marry him (likely due to their differing social statuses), and sadly, they never did. Guicciardi later became engaged to Count von Gallenberg and married him in on November 14, 1803.

Typically, composers would write music after receiving a commission to do so (they had bills to pay, after all). However, based on the evidence (or lack thereof) Beethoven wrote Moonlight Sonata without receiving a commission. The original title of the sonata is “Quasi una fantasia” (Italian. Almost a fantasy). The popular moniker Moonlight Sonata actually didn’t come about until roughly five years after Beethoven’s death in 1827. In 1832, German music critic Ludwig Rellstab wrote that the sonata reminded him of the reflected moonlight off Lake Lucerne, and since then, Moonlight Sonata has remained the official unofficial title of the sonata.

Moonlight Sonata Structure and Notes

The Moonlight Sonata is divided into three separate movements.

Moonlight Sonata Recommended Recordings

As expected for one of the world’s most famous and instantly recognizable pieces of music, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of recordings available. Though it would be impossible for me to listen to every single one, the following selections are ones I have come across in my life that are definitely worth looking into and even adding to your own classical music collection:

  • Beethoven: Sonatas
  • Beethoven: The Complete Piano Sonatas
  • Horowitz Vol VI – Beethoven: Piano Sonatas 14, 21 & 23
  • More Moonlight Sonata Recordings

Moonlight Sonata Trivia

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