Beethoven, the Moonlight and Other Sonatas, Op. 27 and Op. 31

Beethoven, the Moonlight and Other Sonatas, Op. 27 and Op. 31

Beethoven, the Moonlight and Other Sonatas, Op. 27 and Op. 31

Beethoven, the Moonlight and Other Sonatas, Op. 27 and Op. 31

Synopsis

Even in Beethoven's day everyone was talking about the "Moonlight" Sonata. This is a comprehensive introduction to Beethoven's most popular piano sonata, together with the four other sonatas in Op. 27 and Op. 31. Aimed at pianists, students and music lovers, it gives an account of the sonatas' historical background, their changing performance styles, and offers an accessible critical introduction to the music.

Excerpt

'Everyone always talks about the C♯ minor Sonata!' exclaimed Beethoven in a moment of exasperation. And, confronted with the vast literature on this sonata, it seems that everyone has continued to talk and write about the 'Moonlight' from the composer's day to our own. Why add to that body of work? First, most of the material on the sonata is inaccessible to all but the most dedicated researcher, and there is currently no monograph on the work in English. Second, there has been much recent scholarly work on Beethoven's first decade in Vienna (1792–1802), and advances in our understanding of the composer's early career are bound to change the way we perceive the works he wrote around the turn of the century. in response, this study engages in a reassessment of the 'Moonlight' Sonata's place in Beethoven's work.

To do so it has been necessary to emulate the sonata and break with a tradition. Unlike the other Cambridge Music Handbooks this book focuses neither on a single work nor on a complete repertoire. My decision to discuss two sets of sonatas dating from 1801–3 has been motivated by historiographical as well as critical factors. the efficacy of perceiving Beethoven's life in early, middle and late periods has been challenged by Beethoven scholars in the last few decades, but it is still universally recognised that the years 1801–3 were crucial for his development as a composer. At the start of the nineteenth century, Beethoven had established himself as the leading piano virtuoso-composer in Vienna after a decade in the city, but had suffered a setback with the dawning realisation that the decline in his hearing was irreversible. At the same time, his music – which had always been perceived by his contemporaries as individual and difficult – became more original, cutting loose from classical models and pointing the way to later masterpieces such as the 'Eroica' and Fifth Symphonies, the 'Waldstein' and . . .

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