Classical Music Review: Ludwig Van Beethoven - Moonlight Sonata

When you hear someone mention classical music, who is the first composer you think of? It’s normally Ludwig Van Beethoven. Beethoven is considered to be the best composer within classical and romantic music because of his grand and beautiful compositions such as Symphony No. 5, Symphony No. 9, Für Elise and Moonlight Sonata.

It’s pieces like these that made Beethoven’s music timeless because of how engaging and compelling they were to listen to. The compositions behind his most famous pieces highlights why Beethoven was an innovative musician because the compositions he wrote were so complex but at the same time they oozed sophistication. It’s understandable why Ludwig Van Beethoven is such a crucial figure in classical music and a national hero in Germany.

Moonlight Sonata also known as The Piano Sonata No. 14 in C # minor “Quasi una fantasia”, Op. 27 No. 2, is one of the most famous pieces by Ludwig Van Beethoven. Moonlight Sonata has three movements as this is conventional when writing in the song structure of sonatas. These movements are known as The Exposition, The Development and The Recapitulation. The exposition is where the composer presents the themes of the sonata by writing in the main key which in this case is C # minor.

But the exposition can consist of two different sections where the composer can modulate between two different keys. These two sections can be similar or contrast with one another. The term “transition” is used to connect these two sections. The exposition in Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata is the most recognised from the other movements because the composition behind it defines what all composers did so well in that era, which was that they were able to express something on an instrument that the human language wasn’t capable of doing. The exposition ends with a codetta. The exposition is marked on the composition as Adagio sostenuto which means this is played at 66-76bpm as Adagio means slow and stately.

“His music has become important and has continued a legacy because of how influential and groundbreaking his compositions were. Even after the loss of hearing he still managed to capture the imagination.”

The second movement is known as the development. This is where the composer develops on the themes they have presented within the exposition, but the key completely changes from the exposition as in Moonlight Sonata the key changes goes from C # minor to D Major. In the development, Beethoven uses  DMajor because it is the parallel major to C # Minor. When listening to both the exposition and the development, the differences and contrasts are phenomenal because the first movement is theatrical whereas in the development it’s so much more uplifting and joyful. The markings on the sheet music for the development is Allegretto meaning moderately fast.

The final and third movement is known as the recapitulation. In this movement the composer must always go back to the main key they wrote in. The recapitulation is like the exposition but played with some variation. In the case of orchestras the composer can develop, add or remove sections and make variations in the texture and orchestration. Moonlight Sonata‘s third movement is one of the reasons why this is such a masterpiece by Beethoven. The recapitulation throws the listener completely off guard because of it’s unexpected delivery. The movement consists of many fast arpeggios and strongly accented notes. When listening to this movement you can only applaud and admire Beethoven’s talent. Even after 200 years the ferocity of the third movement is still astonishing. The recapitulation of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata has also been said to have been an inspiration for Frédéric Chopin’s Fantaisie Impromptu. The markings of the third movement is Presto agitato which means very fast, often played at 168–200 bpm.

The Moonlight Sonata is one of the pieces that highlights why Ludwig Van Beethoven was named the greatest composer of his generation because he was able to write difficult but wonderful compositions that left heads spinning afterwards. His music has become important and has continued a legacy because of how influential and groundbreaking his compositions were. Even after the loss of hearing he still managed to capture the imagination. If you think classical music is boring, you need to re-think your musical taste and take a glimpse into what composers such as Ludwig Van Beethoven achieved for their time.