Beethoven’s Sonata no 14 in C-sharp minor, “Quasi una Fantasia”, opus 27, no 2 (the “Moonlight Sonata”)

by richibi

opus 27, no 2 – better known as the “Moonlight Sonata” after a
music critic several years after Beethoven had died likened its
famous first movement to impressions of moonlight, and the
name stuck – is probably along with his no 8, the “Sonate
Pathétique“, the most famous piano sonata in the history of
music, its name alone is hard to forget, and its murmuring
chords, like passing clouds before the quiet and uncluttered
simplicity of its central melody, like the longings of the very
moon, is etched in our Western cultural subconscious
“Quasi una Fantasia” means “in the manner of an improvisation”,
an idea already which would’ve been considered impudent earlier
at court, where decorum and form had held rigorous sway  
but Beethoven begins as well with a slow movement, an “adagio
sostenuto“, a sustained adagio, suggesting the inexorable passage
of time, interrupted only midst its unending undulations by the 
mournful cry of a melody, silken, yet solitary, as a moon    
so plaintive a display of pathos would not have played well
before an aristocracy which, ruled by codes of honour, would
have found common, base, such flagrant self-indulgence
but times had changed, discontent was having its say, and
Beethoven was fervently speaking it, for his era, and for very
that a sonata would start with a slow movement also put into
question the very tradition, ineluctable until then, of having
to keep its place in the middle, by changing the order of play
the order of emotional commitment necessarily followed,
suggesting that these could be manipulated as in a play, a
novel, a poem, a narrative, wherein notes would speak like
words, Beethoven was devising to make music thus into a
veritable language 
just listen 
after a short middle movement, the allegretto, faster than
the first, the presto, the last and fastest movement of all,
usually the shortest movement of a sonata on account of
its technically difficult speed, is longer here than both other
movements put together, to concert pianists a very Everest,
a test of their mettle and skill, an irresistible challenge to
any ambitious virtuoso, another, more pragmatic, reason,
incidentally, for the success, and survival, of a piece, which
is championed, kept in view, by an artist for its ability to
make him or her technically impress, thereby creating the
canon, another word for the repertoire 
despite a few fluffed, here and there even discordant, notes,
Wilhelm Kempff (1895-1991), a titan among pianists, manages 
a completely convincing interpretation, not easily bested