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Masterclass for "moonlight sonata" (Read 10246 times)

Offline newtinkle

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Masterclass for "moonlight sonata"
« on: September 07, 2008, 06:46:55 PM »
An insightful and convincing interpretation IMO.


piano sheet music of Sonata 14 (Moonlight)


Offline faulty_damper

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Re: Masterclass for "moonlight sonata"
«Reply #1 on: September 07, 2008, 07:29:30 PM »
Adagio means slow.  Why does Schiff interpret it as moderato/allegretto?

He says it is because the time signature is cut time, or half note pulse.  So if time went according to the time signature, then the half note pulse would indeed be slow.  However, the music sounds much too fast to be interpreted as adagio.

Tempo markings (which are categorized as part of expression markings) relate to the perception of speed.  It is not about time signatures, which are notational issues. 

Clearly, Schiff needs to go back to school to learn that time signatures are not the same as tempo markings. ::)

Offline steinwaygrand

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Re: Masterclass for "moonlight sonata"
«Reply #2 on: September 07, 2008, 08:00:18 PM »
What, notationally speaking, would change if Beethoven had chosen 4/4? He obviously didn't make the choice arbitrarily, and Schiff gives other evidence for his choice of tempo...not just the time signature.

I'm not saying I agree with him 100%, but many people do play it dreadfully slow.

Offline newtinkle

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Re: Masterclass for "moonlight sonata"
«Reply #3 on: September 07, 2008, 08:08:54 PM »
If you thought that tempo was fast...






Offline faulty_damper

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Re: Masterclass for "moonlight sonata"
«Reply #4 on: September 07, 2008, 08:44:37 PM »
What, notationally speaking, would change if Beethoven had chosen 4/4? He obviously didn't make the choice arbitrarily, and Schiff gives other evidence for his choice of tempo...not just the time signature.

The first (and last) page of the autograph is lost so knowing which time signature Beethoven wrote is impossible to determine.

Using modern notation practice, it would most likely be common time (4/4) as some editors have "corrected".

However, it could, indeed, be cut time if the time signature referred to the harmonic pulse, because notational practices during Beethoven's time is different from now.

Offline ramseytheii

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Re: Masterclass for "moonlight sonata"
«Reply #5 on: September 07, 2008, 09:29:18 PM »
This topic bled into some other threads, including this one which is about rhythmic inconsistencies in performances of the Moonlight sonata:

http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php/topic,28289.0.html

Walter Ramsey





Offline jabbz

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Re: Masterclass for "moonlight sonata"
«Reply #6 on: September 07, 2008, 09:33:28 PM »
Schiff isn't the first to have said this, but I actually agree, nearly 100%.

During the 18thC time signature was tempo, often. A Baroque performer would instinctively know the tempo of a 2/4 invention, which would have been different to a 4/4 invention. Why else did Baroque masters sometimes write things with 1 beat to a bar? Now, obviously Beethoven wasn't a Baroque composer/musician, however Beethoven's father would have been extremely well informer on Baroque performance and practice. Now consider that Beethoven's first teacher was his father, and we have an interesting argument. We know Beethoven maintained features of Baroque composition in his works, I'm going to dig around and see what else is going on.

PS: I don't know anything about you really Faulty, but Schiff is a graduate of a world standard conservatory and a competition winner, surely that implies a certain amount of study?

Offline ramseytheii

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Re: Masterclass for "moonlight sonata"
«Reply #7 on: September 07, 2008, 09:46:39 PM »
Schiff isn't the first to have said this, but I actually agree, nearly 100%.

During the 18thC time signature was tempo, often. A Baroque performer would instinctively know the tempo of a 2/4 invention, which would have been different to a 4/4 invention. Why else did Baroque masters sometimes write things with 1 beat to a bar? Now, obviously Beethoven wasn't a Baroque composer/musician, however Beethoven's father would have been extremely well informer on Baroque performance and practice. Now consider that Beethoven's first teacher was his father, and we have an interesting argument. We know Beethoven maintained features of Baroque composition in his works, I'm going to dig around and see what else is going on.

PS: I don't know anything about you really Faulty, but Schiff is a graduate of a world standard conservatory and a competition winner, surely that implies a certain amount of study?

How could you ruin such a promising post, with such an inane postscript?  Don't you know that George Bush graduated from Yale, and Harvard?  Should we not disagree with him?

Walter Ramsey



Offline jabbz

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Re: Masterclass for "moonlight sonata"
«Reply #8 on: September 07, 2008, 10:09:23 PM »
Oh no, no. I quite agree with you, absolutely. But the comment that he needs to return to school 'to learn that time signatures are not the same as tempo markings' seemed a bit harsh to me.

Offline ramseytheii

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Re: Masterclass for "moonlight sonata"
«Reply #9 on: September 07, 2008, 10:46:24 PM »
Sorry, I missed that!

Walter Ramsey



Offline faulty_damper

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Re: Masterclass for "moonlight sonata"
«Reply #10 on: September 08, 2008, 12:43:51 AM »
Do you agree with the intellectual argument that adagio is the half note pulse?
Musically, is the way he performs it much too fast?

I reject the intellectual because the intellectual sounds much too fast.  Adagio sostenuto means slow and sustained.  Schiff's tempo is neither slow nor sustain - it sounds like a dance remix. ::)

Offline jabbz

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Re: Masterclass for "moonlight sonata"
«Reply #11 on: September 08, 2008, 08:55:20 AM »
But what was Adagio to Beethoven? There no metronome markings back then, slow could have been anything it's all relative. If you examine Beethoven's use of metronome markings, they were always really quite fast, even for slow movements.

Personally, op 27/2's Adagio I find to be really quite boring. I don't want to be sitting in concert listening to that first movement for 10mins, however glorious the harmonic progression is. I don't think it is musical to place it just so slowly, it seems to just be a false tradition of sentimentality. Now, perhaps Schiff does take it too fast, I don't know, I haven't heard him play it, but really, it shouldn't be too slow.

Offline faulty_damper

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Re: Masterclass for "moonlight sonata"
«Reply #12 on: September 09, 2008, 02:24:02 AM »
But what was Adagio to Beethoven? There no metronome markings back then, slow could have been anything it's all relative. If you examine Beethoven's use of metronome markings, they were always really quite fast, even for slow movements.

Personally, op 27/2's Adagio I find to be really quite boring. I don't want to be sitting in concert listening to that first movement for 10mins, however glorious the harmonic progression is. I don't think it is musical to place it just so slowly, it seems to just be a false tradition of sentimentality. Now, perhaps Schiff does take it too fast, I don't know, I haven't heard him play it, but really, it shouldn't be too slow.

I don't think that his metronome markings were fast at all.  They are only fast if you are playing the piano, not making music.  He really meant it when he wrote down a tempo.

Adagio means slow.  Sostenuto means sustained.  Adagio sostenuto means slow and sustained.  Anyone can tell the difference between slow, moderate, and fast.  Schiff's is moderately fast - not slow.

Offline pianowolfi

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Re: Masterclass for "moonlight sonata"
«Reply #13 on: September 10, 2008, 08:16:10 AM »
There are no metronome marks by Beethoven himself but Czerny has commented on all the sonatas and put metronome marks. For me these are always a reference since Czerny has studied the sonatas with Beethoven. For this particular mvt. Czerny says Quarter note=54. btw I don't agree with Schiff when he says that this mvt. is not written in sonata form.

the "pedal throughout" thing sounds only good on a historical instrument, not on the modern piano.

Offline ramseytheii

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Re: Masterclass for "moonlight sonata"
«Reply #14 on: September 10, 2008, 08:18:48 PM »
Beethoven did supply the metronome mark for Hammerklavier sonata!

Walter Ramsey



Offline pianowolfi

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Re: Masterclass for "moonlight sonata"
«Reply #15 on: September 10, 2008, 08:40:46 PM »
Beethoven did supply the metronome mark for Hammerklavier sonata!

Walter Ramsey

yes sure, I should have been more precise, I meant for op.27,2 and many other sonatas there are no metronome marks.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Masterclass for "moonlight sonata"
«Reply #16 on: September 11, 2008, 01:40:39 AM »
You know what, I have heard moonlight sonata probably 1 billion times and played 500 million different ways. Someones playing of the Moonlight would have to turn stuff to gold while playing to impress me. The poor piece has been bashed and over played to the extreme.
"The biggest risk in life is to take no risk at all."
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Offline faulty_damper

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Re: Masterclass for "moonlight sonata"
«Reply #17 on: September 11, 2008, 05:14:06 AM »
Beethoven did supply the metronome mark for Hammerklavier sonata!

Walter Ramsey

And I think Beethoven's MM is correct for the introduction of the piece.  It reflects the grand and joyous character.  Any slower and it sounds like piano-playing instead of music-making.

Offline ramseytheii

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Re: Masterclass for "moonlight sonata"
«Reply #18 on: September 11, 2008, 11:49:25 AM »
Interesting opinion!  To me it sounds more like hyperventilation!

Walter Ramsey



Offline jabbz

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Re: Masterclass for "moonlight sonata"
«Reply #19 on: September 11, 2008, 04:26:40 PM »
Beethoven's MM for the lento of the Fugue is also quite fast, if you'll note. It also lines up with the MMs for Symphony no.9 if I'm correct.

Offline faulty_damper

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Re: Masterclass for "moonlight sonata"
«Reply #20 on: September 11, 2008, 11:21:25 PM »
Interesting opinion!  To me it sounds more like hyperventilation!

Walter Ramsey

It does indeed if the MM were taken literally throughout the movement.  Obviously, that isn't the case.  I would defer to Debussy's comment that an MM only applies the bar it is written over.

Offline ramseytheii

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Re: Masterclass for "moonlight sonata"
«Reply #21 on: September 11, 2008, 11:50:08 PM »
I;ve never heard that before.  But seeing that Debussy didn't particularly like Beethoven's music, one should be wary of conflating one composer's aesthetic, with another's!

Walter Ramsey



Offline faulty_damper

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Re: Masterclass for "moonlight sonata"
«Reply #22 on: September 12, 2008, 02:59:46 AM »
I agree with Debussy.  Most musicians would probably agree that setting the MM and leaving it on from the beginning to the end would sound terribly inexpressive.  It's not the ticking of a clock with pretty tones emanating around it. :P

Offline ramseytheii

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Re: Masterclass for "moonlight sonata"
«Reply #23 on: September 12, 2008, 01:45:31 PM »
Well, in any case, Beethoven's contemporaries did describe his playing, as seeming to have a different rhythm, for each bar, or phrase.  Meaning that he probably played often in a parlando style, very expressive and without a literal interpretation of rhythms, which so often plagues performances today.

Walter Ramsey



Offline pianisten1989

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Re: Masterclass for "moonlight sonata"
«Reply #24 on: September 13, 2008, 07:09:53 PM »
Adagio means slow.  Why does Schiff interpret it as moderato/allegretto?

well... he plays it around 65-70. Allegretto is way faster than that, and moderato is a bit faster. And to play it slower would be well played music in like.. 1/4 of the piece, then it would become boring.

Try play as slow as you would like it, somewhere aroud 40 or whatever, record it and listen to it. In that way you will notice that you'll be very proud of yourself in some bars, then you start to fell that it never ends.
The piece hasn't got enough variations for such a slow tempo, in my opinion.

Offline aewanko

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Re: Masterclass for "moonlight sonata"
«Reply #25 on: September 14, 2008, 12:35:53 AM »
rubbish ideas from a bad pianist.  ::)
Trying to return to playing the piano.

Offline gyzzzmo

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Re: Masterclass for "moonlight sonata"
«Reply #26 on: September 14, 2008, 08:26:48 PM »
Original interpretation from mr Schiff, but i dont like it.
Its always nice about interpretations: Are they supposed to be the same as the composer ment it, the public, or the performer? This chatting is nice for the bored pianist who wants to try something new, but i'm still at the stage where i want to play things like I like them to play.
Rachmaninoffs visions about his own compositions are nice to hear, but in general i dont really like them. Is that bad, or is that practicly the only room for variation we have as classical music interpretors?

gyzzzmo
1+1=11

Offline lilaozkazanc

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Re: Masterclass for "moonlight sonata"
«Reply #27 on: October 10, 2008, 04:25:55 PM »
Everybody wants to play this :) including me  ::)