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Moonlight sonata (Read 7257 times)

Offline stormx

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Moonlight sonata
« on: January 09, 2008, 05:07:53 PM »
Hi,

what do you think about the opinions given at:

http://classicalmusicblog.com/2007/09/beethoven-sonata.html

I have no idea who the author is, nor anything about his musical background.

I do not have a fine ear, so i ask you (that surely have a much better one) whether you agree with many observations made there.

For instance, speaking about the first theme of 1° movement:

<<Only Barenboim, Kissin, Pletnev, Ashkenazy, Lupu and Rubinstein can be said to have a true polyrhythm... (skip)...Brendel, Kempff and Schnabel have really got it wrong>>

 ??? ???

<<There are many wrong notes in other recordings, and they are the result of ‘missing’ the right ones, but it is difficult to explain why Barenboim plays a d-natural instead of e towards the end of the third bar in the A major connecting theme>>

Can you hear that?  ??? ???

<<There is only one perfect recording of the third movement, and it is by Jenö Jandó>>

 ??? ???


Any opinions?



piano sheet music of Sonata 14 (Moonlight)


Offline counterpoint

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Re: Moonlight sonata
«Reply #1 on: January 09, 2008, 08:30:08 PM »
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<<Only Barenboim, Kissin, Pletnev, Ashkenazy, Lupu and Rubinstein can be said to have a true polyrhythm... (skip)...Brendel, Kempff and Schnabel have really got it wrong>>

Okay, one can take that for hairsplitting but it's interesting, because dotted rhythms are often played different (by intention!) from what their exact mathematical duration would be.

From a mathematical standpoint, the 16th note should be nearer to the last triplet and not nearer to the following beat. But from a musical point of view, it sounds much better, when the 16th is delayed and shortened (to a half triplet or even to a 32th). If a notation program plays the rhythm mathematical correct, it sounds wrong!
If it doesn't work - try something different!

Offline thierry13

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Re: Moonlight sonata
«Reply #2 on: January 10, 2008, 12:26:37 AM »
I can't say this guy completly does not know what he's talking about, but I CAN say that this guy doesn't know 3/4 what he's talking about  ;D

Offline gerryjay

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Re: Moonlight sonata
«Reply #3 on: January 10, 2008, 04:28:44 AM »
 it's not a bad article and like most i did read controversial at some point.

 i only like to share that i agree with the autor at least in one point: people use much more pedal than they should on the classical repertory, and it's a shame because the melodies need so much their proper articulation. Blending all together with an extensive use of pedal it's unpleasant imo.

 about jando as best recording...well i don't dislike him but there are other versions much more interesting than his to myself.

Offline pianowolfi

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Re: Moonlight sonata
«Reply #4 on: January 10, 2008, 07:48:55 AM »
While looking at the score in this article I noticed the first time in my life that the bass theme in the beginning of the first mvt. is identical with the first half of the bass theme in the second mvt of op. 109, hee hee, what a discovery of my day ;D

Offline ramseytheii

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Re: Moonlight sonata
«Reply #5 on: January 12, 2008, 06:29:12 PM »
The article is unreliable in many aspects, but still itneresting.  He argues for slowest possible tempo of the first movement, but he omits Andras Schiff's argument that the piece should actually go much faster than usual.  Schiff is another who tends to make his argument, "Everyone else plays it wrong."  So it is nice to see two people, both using the same lexicon, in total disagreement.

Walter Ramsey



Offline term

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Re: Moonlight sonata
«Reply #6 on: January 12, 2008, 09:15:06 PM »
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Technically, it turns out, most performers do not play the main motif correctly. They just don’t properly combine the triplets with the dotted quaver.
I doubt everyone who just comes up with a statement like "they all got it wrong". They didn't. Everyone does it his or her way and most renditions of professional pianists are fine. A matter of taste of course, but still.
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Offline ramseytheii

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Re: Moonlight sonata
«Reply #7 on: January 12, 2008, 09:36:25 PM »
I doubt everyone who just comes up with a statement like "they all got it wrong". They didn't. Everyone does it his or her way and most renditions of professional pianists are fine. A matter of taste of course, but still.

That's right.  This guy is presuming Beethoven wanted an exact mathematical relationship between a sixteenth note and a triplet, and he argues the notation reflects that.  However, how else could Beethoven have notated it?  There is only one way to notate the melody and accompaniment, just as he did, but a myriad of ways to play it.  Perhaps Beethoven did want an exact mathematical relationship; but if he didn't, or if he just didn't care, there was no other way to notate it.  We should be careful not to read too much into simple things.

Walter Ramsey



Offline ramseytheii

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Re: Moonlight sonata
«Reply #8 on: January 13, 2008, 10:54:16 PM »
Another thing that bothers me about this article, and about all people who engage in arguments similar to it (like Andras Schiff in his discussion of the Moonlight sonata), is that they only say that pianists who don't execute their viewpoints are "wrong."  They don't tell us, in other words, what those pianists actually did, they only tell us what they didn't do.

When Andras Schiff said that the Moonlight sonata was the most misunderstood piece of music ever (he believes it should be twice as fast as normally played), and that generations of pianists played it "wrong," he just failed to observe what they brought to it.  He failed to observe that they found a compelling way to play the piece, whether or not it was literally correct (he makes a good argument that most were not). 

The same with this guy; in his obsession with mathematical literalness, he fails to hear any value in a performance that doesn't relate the lowest common denominator of the triplet and the sixteenth note.  It's pointless to get worked up about such ears, which don't really hear anything.  Just chuckle, and go back to playing it the way it sounds good.

Walter Ramsey



Offline goldentone

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Re: Moonlight sonata
«Reply #9 on: January 22, 2008, 06:19:47 AM »
I take issue with his alleging that Beethoven copied Moonlight's 1st mvt. motif from Mozart.

But it was interesting to read and nice to compare the pianists.
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Offline faulty_damper

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Re: Moonlight sonata
«Reply #10 on: January 22, 2008, 09:24:49 AM »
The article is unreliable in many aspects, but still itneresting.  He argues for slowest possible tempo of the first movement, but he omits Andras Schiff's argument that the piece should actually go much faster than usual.  Schiff is another who tends to make his argument, "Everyone else plays it wrong."  So it is nice to see two people, both using the same lexicon, in total disagreement.

Walter Ramsey
Schiff is wrong. ;D

Schiff makes the assumption that the tempo marking refers to the written meter.  If this were true, then Schiff would be right.  But he isn't.  Tempo markings refer to the percieved tempo.

The sonata was originally published with a time signature of cut time in the first movement.  This doesn't make any sense considering the musical content of the movement, unless we consider the notation practice Beethoven was using.  The metric notation would refer to the harmonic progression that occurs.  Clearly, the bass line suggests it doesn't move so quickly, usually in half notes, hence the cut time.

But, it could also be that Beethoven really wrote C but was incorrectly engraved.  But we will never know because the first page of the autograph is gone.  I doubt this was an engraving error but at least one editor (Bulow) changed the cut time to C which would more accurately be understood by modern eyes that Adagio refers to the quarter note and not the half note (Schiff).

You are wrong, Schiff! ;D


I don't think the author argues for the slowest possible tempo.  He mentions specifically Adagio and not Lento.  I also doubt the author was aware of any lecture Schiff gave about this sonata and his opinions were based only on listening to recordings.

Offline faulty_damper

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Re: Moonlight sonata
«Reply #11 on: January 22, 2008, 09:28:59 AM »
About the issue of the polyrhythm: there is one gigantic issue that I have and it isn't with the dotted quaver motive.  It's about that 'hiccup' in the accompaniment as performers take that extra time to play the semi-quaver.  That is utterly annoying and very obviously incorrect!  I have yet to hear one recording or performance where this issue is not an issue.

But I understand, as well.  It's difficult to perform it correctly without the 'hiccup' but there still shouldn't be a hiccup.

Offline faulty_damper

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Re: Moonlight sonata
«Reply #12 on: January 22, 2008, 09:35:56 AM »
If a notation program plays the rhythm mathematical correct, it sounds wrong!
I don't think so.  Assuming a crotchet = 52bpm, which is my preferred tempo, it sounds perfectly correct! ;D

Offline huntley53

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Re: Moonlight sonata
«Reply #13 on: February 03, 2008, 12:22:26 AM »
I don't think so.  Assuming a crotchet = 52bpm, which is my preferred tempo, it sounds perfectly correct! ;D

Perhaps you might be interested in this version of the 3rd movement (Presto):

http://www.soundclick.com/bands/default.cfm?bandID=649782&content=videos&vidID=25012

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Moonlight sonata
«Reply #14 on: February 04, 2008, 04:10:28 AM »
If I had to listen to many many renditions of Moonlight Sonata and compare I'd probably start going soft in the brain too.
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Offline minstrel

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Re: Moonlight sonata
«Reply #15 on: February 04, 2008, 04:57:28 PM »
About the issue of the polyrhythm: there is one gigantic issue that I have and it isn't with the dotted quaver motive.  It's about that 'hiccup' in the accompaniment as performers take that extra time to play the semi-quaver.  That is utterly annoying and very obviously incorrect!  I have yet to hear one recording or performance where this issue is not an issue.

But I understand, as well.  It's difficult to perform it correctly without the 'hiccup' but there still shouldn't be a hiccup.

Absolutely.

Regardless of how the polyrhythm is treated, if the rhythmic continuity isn't flowing from quarter to quarter then everything is lost, especially mid-phrase.  This was most noticeable to me in the Barenboim clip, and less so in the Kempff, even though as the blog states "he got it wrong"!

Offline gyzzzmo

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Re: Moonlight sonata
«Reply #16 on: February 05, 2008, 01:01:43 AM »
Just solve the 'hick-up' problem by playing that note slightly earlier.
This piece isnt something wich should be approached mathematicly. Just as any romantic piece, just 'think' the melody, dont force anything, and let those triplets roll on the background.

gyzzzmo
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Offline roni22

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Re: Moonlight sonata
«Reply #17 on: March 11, 2008, 11:12:04 PM »
Hello everyone, and thank you for your thoughts. It is great that different opinions are expressed.  :)

I would to answer some of your comments.

Schiff's lectures on Beethoven's sonatas are well known to me, particularly his analysis of the Moonlight. He and I do disagree on some points while agreeing on others. A discussion of disagreements is really not relevant to the analyses and reviews, and so I do not include such commentaries in the blog.

It is interesting that a presumption that I was looking for a mathematical accuracy of the rhythm took hold. In reality, one must consider the different possibilities of notation that Beethoven could have used for his main motif. One example is that the 16th note could have been a triplet 16th, thus coming right in between the last triplet 8th note and the next bar, and then we have no polyrhythm; that is actually what most pianists play, but I must insist on the arising question "why did then Beethoven specifically write a polyrhythmic motif?"

The article is unreliable in many aspects, but still itneresting.  He argues for slowest possible tempo of the first movement, but he omits Andras Schiff's argument that the piece should actually go much faster than usual.

Walter, it would be interesting to hear your opinion on the specifics of your "unreliable in many aspects" claim. Also, I really did not argue for a slowest possible tempo for the 1st mvt., in fact, my choice of Jando and Kissin as top performances are a bit faster than the moderate tempi.

But thank you for your comments, and I would like to add that I very much respect the personal views of all. Actually, the reason for the inclusion of so many audio excerpts was to let the listener choose the one performance they found most appealing.

Roni
Classical Music Blog

Offline jinfiesto

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Re: Moonlight sonata
«Reply #18 on: March 12, 2008, 12:43:13 AM »
He's also excluding the fact, that many times, in figurations like that, the top voice can also be taken as a triplet and thus, the 16th can fall right between the triplet 8ths.

Offline bob3.1415926

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Re: Moonlight sonata
«Reply #19 on: March 12, 2008, 08:42:12 PM »
After reading this, I just had a quick play through of the 1st movement with the 'correct' rhythm. Hadn't heard it like that before. I quite like it actually. Really changes the emphasis. Maybe that's just because it's fresh to my ears though.