Ludwig Van Beethoven And His Moonlight Sonata
Have you ever imagined that people could be deeply touched by music underwritten by a deaf? Hard to believe but very the truth because he is Beethoven, one of the most recognized and influential musicians in the world, also one of the greatest composers of all time.
Ludwig van Beethoven, the great German musician, was born on December 17, 1770, died on March 26, 1827. His home city was Bonn, by then was reigned by the Electorate of Cologne, who got Bonn established as capital and principal part of the Holy Roman Empire. Towards the date of his birth, there is a saying that December 17 was the day he was baptized and recorded. The exact date of his birth was uncertain. Moreover, Beethoven himself believed that he was born in 1772, even when official papers were presented. Apart from such a myth, as a crucial figure in classical music, he earned his credit during the transition period between classical and romantic eras.
Beethoven inherited musical talents from his father, Johann van Beethoven, who was also his first teacher of music. Blending his talents with strict and vigorous teaching, Beethoven demonstrated his gifts on music very early, then was admitted as a student by composer and conductor, Christian Gottlob Neefe.
In 1801, as a young professional musician, he gained his fame established for his serial works, called String Quartets, following with music he composed for the ballet The Creatures of Prometheus. However, the prospect of his career life was seriously affected by health issues he encountered: he became half-deaf and his hearing continued to decline. Yet he continued the conduction of his third and fifth symphonies in 1804 and 1808, respectively. Unfortunately, his condition was worsening and by 1811, he almost lost all hearing. He then turned himself as a hermit from the public, with no social activities.
He chose to disappear from the eyesight of public yet he carries to compose and a few his most remarkable works were done during his last ten years of life, when he was caught in complete quietness, with no sound could be heard.
Fighting with encroaching deafness, no doubt he is a hero but his greatness is by no means limited by such struggling. His career life of musician is commonly divided into three phases, early (graduation till 1802), middle (from 1802 to 1812), then the late, typically meaning from 1812 till his death in 1827. During his career life, about 30 years, he got so many masterpieces done: nine symphonies; five piano concertos; one violin concerto; thirty-two piano sonatas; sixteen string quartets; two masses; and the opera, Fidelio. His name became a legacy, known for innovation, by combing vocals and instruments, to extend the scope of sonata, symphony, concerto, and quartet. He passed away in Vienna on March 26, 1827, due to liver cirrhosis. Three days after his death, his funeral was attended by 20,000 people.
Moonlight Sonata is a piano sonata composed by Ludwig van Beethoven in 1801. The nickname “Moonlight Sonata” traces to 1830s, when German Romantic poet Ludwig Rellstab likened the first movement Adagio sostenuto of “the piece to a boat floating in the moonlight on Switzerland’s Lake Lucerne.” Beethoven dedicated this piece of music to Julietta Guicciardini, a 16-year-old girl, but he later paid for this relationship.
One of the characteristics of this movement is its rhythm is very clear. The 2/2 beats are easy for audience to get familiar with, and easier to understand the theme of this piece of music. Unlike Debussy, Beethoven expressed a sense of calmness, sadness, and loneliness in this piece of music called “moonlight”. Under that peaceful melody, somehow, I can feel fear and anxiety. When I hear the higher pitch from 2’21’’ to 2’38’’, it feels like I am under an unsafe situation. After that, the pitch gets lower, and I feel much better.
Around 0’42’’, the volume of this piece weakened a little bit. I think this change separates two parts of the first movement in a secret way. There are also some slight changes in the volume through the whole movement, sometimes the melody is stronger and powerful, while other times become weaker and peaceful. I think this movement has some identities of impressionism because the audience’s emotion can be influenced by music.
In addition, Beethoven’s work may also include the spirit of humanism and some early ideas of nationalism. In the third movement of “moonlight sonata”, it seems that he composed his music with a passionate concern for the freedom and dignity of the individual.
- Budden, J. M., & Knapp, R. L. (2019). Ludwig van Beethoven. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Ludwig-van-Beethoven
- Learning, L. (n.d.). Music Appreciation 1: Classical Instrumental and Chamber Music, L. Beethoven. Retrieved from https://courses.lumenlearning.com/suny-musicappreciationtheory/chapter/ludwig-van-beethoven/)
- Ludwig van Beethoven Biography. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.biography.com/musician/ludwig-van-beethoven
- Schwarm, B. (2016). Moonlight Sonata. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/Moonlight-Sonata