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Does anyone else feel the Moonlight Sonata is kind of overrated? (Read 1461 times)

Offline youngpianist

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I have played this piece in the past but I have to get something off my chest. Isn't this piece kind of overrated? It's kind of beautiful I guess but people act like it's the most mind blowing thing ever, the pinnacle of western art. Can someone tell me what the big deal is? The first movement sounds nice but it's basically the same thing constantly for 5 minutes, the second movement is just an average Beethoven minuetto movement, nothing special about it, and the third movement is kind of fast and impressive but it's just all dark dark minor minor and it gets old after a while. Rant over.

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Beethoven: Sonata 14 (Moonlight), opus 27 no 2
piano sheet music of Sonata 14 (Moonlight)


Offline visitor

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Re: Does anyone else feel the Moonlight Sonata is kind of overrated?
«Reply #1 on: August 30, 2021, 09:57:23 PM »
Not overated
Go study sontas in the 50 years leading up to and the other output for the piano at that time sonata wise to see how ground breaking it was
Your assessment is the movements I suppose could be gotten to by listening to less than stellar performances of it but study /learn it again and listen to masters knock it out and you'll see how wonderfully worthy of its praise it is
I so love love love the second movement especially

I will say they the adoration of it to the exclusion of other incredible pieces of the time or that exist in the literature  by others is annoying so it deserves it's high status but folks should quit ignoring other sonatas as equally wow. Level beautiful

But the counter point to this argument is the underrated sonata ie this thing , got dang , yes lets love the moonlight but let's not ignore this thing


Offline dw4rn

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Re: Does anyone else feel the Moonlight Sonata is kind of overrated?
«Reply #2 on: August 31, 2021, 07:18:01 AM »
No

the adoration of it to the exclusion of other incredible pieces of the time or that exist in the literature by others is annoying

Yes

Online klavieronin

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Re: Does anyone else feel the Moonlight Sonata is kind of overrated?
«Reply #3 on: August 31, 2021, 07:40:28 AM »
I agree, I don't think it is overrated at all but it definitely steals the thunder from other equally worthy pieces. One thing that bothers me a little, though, is that many people who say they like it don't realise it actually has 3 movements.

Offline brogers70

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Re: Does anyone else feel the Moonlight Sonata is kind of overrated?
«Reply #4 on: August 31, 2021, 09:48:07 AM »
I read somewhere that Beethoven was not happy with the disproportionate popularity of the Moonlight Sonata compared to his other sonatas and that he himself thought the F# Major Sonata Opus 74 was a better piece.

Offline youngpianist

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Re: Does anyone else feel the Moonlight Sonata is kind of overrated?
«Reply #5 on: August 31, 2021, 08:15:43 PM »
Not overated
Go study sontas in the 50 years leading up to and the other output for the piano at that time sonata wise to see how ground breaking it was

I'm bothered by this type of argument, because I know that it was groundbeaking, but being groundbreaking does not mean that it's amazing now. The film camera and moving picture were groundbreaking when they were invented, but films made back then, groundbreaking as they may be, are not particularly good by today's standards. They're interesting as a historical curiosity and the art of film has moved on, what was groundbreaking about the first moving pictures is commonplace today.
I understand it was groundbreaking to have a monotone slow movement as the opening movement, but it's not really that incredible if you think about it. It's easy as saying that most of the first movements written so far are fast, so let's try beginning with a slow one instead. See? It was that easy and nothing amazing about it. He just did the opposite of what the rules said and it worked. Cool.

Offline j_tour

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Re: Does anyone else feel the Moonlight Sonata is kind of overrated?
«Reply #6 on: September 01, 2021, 02:57:13 AM »
Is it as interesting as it's companion in the same set, the Op. 27 no. 1?

No, of course not.

But, just because a lot of little kids play the Op. 27/2 (whole sonata) doesn't really diminish the piece in itself. 

Not overrated.  Perhaps overplayed.  But I was excited as a preteen by the presto agitato of my own accord and I'm glad I learned it:  if nothing else, it's good practice, like an étude of some kind.

My name is Nellie, and I take pride in helping protect the children of my community through active leadership roles in my local church and in the Boy Scouts of America.  Bad word make me sad.

Offline anacrusis

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Re: Does anyone else feel the Moonlight Sonata is kind of overrated?
«Reply #7 on: September 01, 2021, 04:57:14 PM »
Is it as interesting as it's companion in the same set, the Op. 27 no. 1?

No, of course not.

But, just because a lot of little kids play the Op. 27/2 (whole sonata) doesn't really diminish the piece in itself. 

Not overrated.  Perhaps overplayed.  But I was excited as a preteen by the presto agitato of my own accord and I'm glad I learned it:  if nothing else, it's good practice, like an étude of some kind.

Op 27 no 1 is great! Hugely underrated IMO. I don't think the Moonlight sonata is overrated though. I think it's just as shocking in it's emotional intensity today as it might have been back then.

Offline youngpianist

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Re: Does anyone else feel the Moonlight Sonata is kind of overrated?
«Reply #8 on: September 02, 2021, 10:04:15 PM »
Is it as interesting as it's companion in the same set, the Op. 27 no. 1?

No, of course not.

But, just because a lot of little kids play the Op. 27/2 (whole sonata) doesn't really diminish the piece in itself. 

Not overrated.  Perhaps overplayed.  But I was excited as a preteen by the presto agitato of my own accord and I'm glad I learned it:  if nothing else, it's good practice, like an étude of some kind.

Now there I agree with you. Op 27 No. 1 does not even get half the recognition the Moonlight Sonata gets, and I can't understand why. It's the better work of the two.

Offline dw4rn

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Re: Does anyone else feel the Moonlight Sonata is kind of overrated?
«Reply #9 on: September 03, 2021, 08:08:19 AM »
It's easy as saying that most of the first movements written so far are fast, so let's try beginning with a slow one instead. See? It was that easy and nothing amazing about it. He just did the opposite of what the rules said and it worked. Cool.

I see what you are saying about "groundbreaking" and "amazingly good" not necessarily meaning the same thing. But I don't think anyone has suggested that the fact that it starts with a slow movement is what is so great or groundbreaking about it? There are plenty of examples of slow first movements in instrumental sonatas before this one.

Offline youngpianist

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Re: Does anyone else feel the Moonlight Sonata is kind of overrated?
«Reply #10 on: September 03, 2021, 11:25:24 PM »
I see what you are saying about "groundbreaking" and "amazingly good" not necessarily meaning the same thing. But I don't think anyone has suggested that the fact that it starts with a slow movement is what is so great or groundbreaking about it? There are plenty of examples of slow first movements in instrumental sonatas before this one.

What else do you mean is groundbreaking with it? He changed the first movement into a monotonous five minute dirge. Apart from that it's fairly conventional, with a minuetto movement and the last movement fast and in sonata form.

Offline jacobson747

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Re: Does anyone else feel the Moonlight Sonata is kind of overrated?
«Reply #11 on: September 04, 2021, 01:20:40 AM »
The nickname Moonlight Sonata traces to the 1830s, when German Romantic poet Ludwig Rellstab published a review in which he likened the first movement of the piece to a boat floating in the moonlight on Switzerland's Lake Lucerne.

Not my words, but I feel exactly as this person does:
What is unique about Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata [first mvt]?  [The 1st mvt] has a unique atmosphere, something never heard before. It has a mesmerizing and heartbroken mood, at the same time.

My thought: The harmonies are mesmerizing in the context of the melody and hypnotic accompaniment.

Online klavieronin

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Re: Does anyone else feel the Moonlight Sonata is kind of overrated?
«Reply #12 on: September 04, 2021, 01:45:27 AM »
Here's an interesting masterclass by Andras Schiff on the Moonlight sonata. An interesting perspective.


Offline lelle

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Re: Does anyone else feel the Moonlight Sonata is kind of overrated?
«Reply #13 on: September 05, 2021, 10:34:43 PM »
I love Schiff's Beethoven but regarding the pedal in the first movement I alost feel he is being contrarian for the sake of being contrarian. Playing the movement without ever lifting the pedal just does not sound good. You need to at least make small shifts to clean up the sound a bit on a modern, resonant instrument. In my opinion, that is.

Online klavieronin

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Re: Does anyone else feel the Moonlight Sonata is kind of overrated?
«Reply #14 on: September 06, 2021, 03:41:47 AM »
I love Schiff's Beethoven but regarding the pedal in the first movement I alost feel he is being contrarian for the sake of being contrarian. Playing the movement without ever lifting the pedal just does not sound good. You need to at least make small shifts to clean up the sound a bit on a modern, resonant instrument. In my opinion, that is.

Later on he does mention that you should only hold the pedal about ⅓ of the way down. I think that makes a huge difference.

Offline lelle

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Re: Does anyone else feel the Moonlight Sonata is kind of overrated?
«Reply #15 on: September 09, 2021, 07:37:11 PM »
Later on he does mention that you should only hold the pedal about ⅓ of the way down. I think that makes a huge difference.

It does, but it still produces a mixing of harmonies in certain instances that I find too disagreeable for the style. It just sounds dirty without any real artistic benefit to it - to my ears that is - and I'm not sure Beethoven wanted that. I tend to try to hold the pedal down and not change (not all the way but 1/3 or 1/2 or something like that) for as long as it works, and make small changes wherever the clashing of sounds gets too great if I don't.

Offline owen david

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Re: Does anyone else feel the Moonlight Sonata is kind of overrated?
«Reply #16 on: September 10, 2021, 08:57:48 PM »
I was surprised when I heard the second movement. It's a bit like being given a major sedative...or you get the impression Beethoven decided to put the blandest  filling between two  slices of pure magic, a kind of musical joke.

I don't think movements 1 and 3 are overrated. It depends what you respond to but I think many, like me, respond to the unearthly serenity of the first and the fiery turbulence of the third.

Offline anacrusis

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Re: Does anyone else feel the Moonlight Sonata is kind of overrated?
«Reply #17 on: September 11, 2021, 11:45:17 PM »
I was surprised when I heard the second movement. It's a bit like being given a major sedative...or you get the impression Beethoven decided to put the blandest  filling between two  slices of pure magic, a kind of musical joke.

I don't think movements 1 and 3 are overrated. It depends what you respond to but I think many, like me, respond to the unearthly serenity of the first and the fiery turbulence of the third.

That's a harsh evaluation of the second movement. I think it's neat, and functions well as a breath of relief between the two emotionally tortured outer movements. I think it needs to be played properly to sound as fun as it actually is.

Offline gipsypiano

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Re: Does anyone else feel the Moonlight Sonata is kind of overrated?
«Reply #18 on: September 12, 2021, 06:24:59 AM »
I think central european classical music is in general completely overrated, you can find in many parts of the world traditional and classical music that is of a much higher quality than the completely overrated Beethovens, Schumanns and Mozarts.
In Armenia and Georgia and Nepal and India allone there are thousands of composers that have a much higher level of quality in the structure of their music and specially interesting rhythms and intensity moch more than much of these known composers from central europe. There are kinds of music with a whole world of notes between a half tone of our relatively primitive classical music. The languages that go along like chinese are infinitely more detailed as well than the relatively primitive european languages.

Offline dw4rn

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Re: Does anyone else feel the Moonlight Sonata is kind of overrated?
«Reply #19 on: September 13, 2021, 07:20:01 AM »
In Armenia and Georgia and Nepal and India allone there are thousands of composers that have a much higher level of quality in the structure of their music

Could you give us a couple of examples? Mind you, this is Piano Forum, so if it's not Armenian etc PIANO MUSIC of infinitely higher quality than Beethoven, it's not really relevant in here.

Offline brogers70

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Re: Does anyone else feel the Moonlight Sonata is kind of overrated?
«Reply #20 on: September 13, 2021, 09:54:41 AM »
At first I thought gypsypiano's response was crazy. And I still do, in a way. But I think that if you're young and open-minded and come from  particular culture and then get exposed to lots of other cultures, you tend to see the new ones in the best possible light and you know well all the weaknesses of your own. There's a kind of generosity and openness to that that's positive, I think. After a while, though, things settle in your mind and experience and you start to get a more balanced view of what is positive or negative in both the new (to you, anyway) cultures and the one you were born in. So when young Western people get all down on European culture and all excited about some other culture it can grate a bit, but there are positive aspects to their reaction and they'll probably mellow a bit over time. Beethoven and Bach aren't losing any sleep over it.

Online klavieronin

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Re: Does anyone else feel the Moonlight Sonata is kind of overrated?
«Reply #21 on: September 13, 2021, 10:16:17 AM »
Not comparing him to Beethoven in any way but since Armenian music was mentioned I thought I'd post this of one of my favourite recent discoveries.


Online ranjit

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Re: Does anyone else feel the Moonlight Sonata is kind of overrated?
«Reply #22 on: September 13, 2021, 04:54:26 PM »
I think central european classical music is in general completely overrated, you can find in many parts of the world traditional and classical music that is of a much higher quality than the completely overrated Beethovens, Schumanns and Mozarts.
Interesting viewpoint. I would personally disagree -- I find Beethoven to be unmatched in certain ways. I have some idea of how Armenian and Indian music sound, and have a feeling you are drawn to the more syncopated rhythms and the modal flavor, as well as notes which don't exactly lie on the chromatic scale.  However, this is biased because you are looking at a musical culture from outside in. Since you have presumably heard Beethoven a lot, the musical devices he employs are no longer interesting to your ears. At the same time, when you listen to music from these other cultures, you can't predict as much and therefore it sounds more sophisticated than it would to someone who has grown up ingratiated to those styles.

For some who has never, ever listened to polyphonic music, even Pachelbel's Canon in D can sound fascinating. I see this happening with a lot of people when they first listen to Indian music. On the other hand, to my ears, it often feels like they are regurgitating standard tropes and not really innovating, which sounds rather stale.

Offline lelle

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Re: Does anyone else feel the Moonlight Sonata is kind of overrated?
«Reply #23 on: September 13, 2021, 10:55:04 PM »
Can't we just appreciate classical music side by side with other genres, or vice versa, recognizing that all genres are valid and have something to offer, depending on what you are looking for?

Online klavieronin

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Re: Does anyone else feel the Moonlight Sonata is kind of overrated?
«Reply #24 on: September 14, 2021, 12:27:32 AM »
Can't we just appreciate classical music side by side with other genres, or vice versa, recognizing that all genres are valid and have something to offer, depending on what you are looking for?

Can't agree more with this. Comparing one culture's music to another's is like comparing painting to sculpture. They aren't trying to achieve the same thing, so any attempt at comparison (beyond mere description of the differences) seems to me somewhat pointless.

Offline owen david

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Re: Does anyone else feel the Moonlight Sonata is kind of overrated?
«Reply #25 on: September 14, 2021, 01:11:11 AM »
OK, it's not bad, per se, but given it's between two of the greatest pieces of music ever written for piano, so I think it does suffer in comparison! If there is a way for the second movement to connect the first and third I'd like to hear it but I can imagine it! I think my theory of a musical joke makes more sense ie "Here are two aspects of my genius and I am going to put a bland workmanlike piece between them to show what true genius is."

That's a harsh evaluation of the second movement. I think it's neat, and functions well as a breath of relief between the two emotionally tortured outer movements. I think it needs to be played properly to sound as fun as it actually is.

Offline gipsypiano

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Re: Does anyone else feel the Moonlight Sonata is kind of overrated?
«Reply #26 on: September 17, 2021, 05:06:21 AM »
Could you give us a couple of examples? Mind you, this is Piano Forum, so if it's not Armenian etc PIANO MUSIC of infinitely higher quality than Beethoven, it's not really relevant in here.

Good morning.
Most classical music from other parts of the world is already much more interesting in its beats/rhythms which can be infinitely more complexe and breathing and living with an infinite world of rubati there is a whole universe of things possible. Rhythm not just being a machine like boring beat but as interesting and sophisticated as the melody part.
Then in other music you can use infinitely many degrees between a note and the next half note of music, a whole world is possible whereby in european music there is nothing between a note and the next note of music.
Both those things combined, and that starts with european gipsy music, make possible infinitely more ways of expressing details which our ears are not used to hear any more.

Online klavieronin

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Re: Does anyone else feel the Moonlight Sonata is kind of overrated?
«Reply #27 on: September 17, 2021, 06:21:06 AM »
Good morning.
Most classical music from other parts of the world is already much more interesting in its beats/rhythms which can be infinitely more complexe and breathing and living with an infinite world of rubati there is a whole universe of things possible. Rhythm not just being a machine like boring beat but as interesting and sophisticated as the melody part.
Then in other music you can use infinitely many degrees between a note and the next half note of music, a whole world is possible whereby in european music there is nothing between a note and the next note of music.
Both those things combined, and that starts with european gipsy music, make possible infinitely more ways of expressing details which our ears are not used to hear any more.

Surely though, having more possibilities and more complexity doesn't necessarily mean better quality. It really depends on how you work within the medium.

I mean, consider what is possible with just the 26 letters of the english alphabet and a few punctuation marks. There are infinite possibilities even there, and those 26 letters and punctuation marks can be arranged into great writing, but also very bad writing.

Offline lelle

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Re: Does anyone else feel the Moonlight Sonata is kind of overrated?
«Reply #28 on: September 18, 2021, 09:44:16 PM »
Good morning.
Most classical music from other parts of the world is already much more interesting in its beats/rhythms which can be infinitely more complexe and breathing and living with an infinite world of rubati there is a whole universe of things possible.

I think the hallmarks of great classical performances include flexibility of rhythm (rubato) as well. Classical music is certainly open to blending steady rhythm and more plastic playing in a wide variety of ways. But maybe I'm misinterpreting your comment?

Offline anacrusis

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Re: Does anyone else feel the Moonlight Sonata is kind of overrated?
«Reply #29 on: September 27, 2021, 08:26:19 PM »
OK, it's not bad, per se, but given it's between two of the greatest pieces of music ever written for piano, so I think it does suffer in comparison! If there is a way for the second movement to connect the first and third I'd like to hear it but I can imagine it! I think my theory of a musical joke makes more sense ie "Here are two aspects of my genius and I am going to put a bland workmanlike piece between them to show what true genius is."

I mean, if anything, it connects the outer movement by being in the "same" key, just the major instead of the minor (D flat major = C sharp major). There is also attacca between all the movements if I recall correctly. So Beethoven clearly intended a direct connection between the three in the musical narrative.

Offline nightwindsonata

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Re: Does anyone else feel the Moonlight Sonata is kind of overrated?
«Reply #30 on: September 29, 2021, 05:42:25 AM »
I read somewhere that Beethoven was not happy with the disproportionate popularity of the Moonlight Sonata compared to his other sonatas and that he himself thought the F# Major Sonata Opus 74 was a better piece.

First of all you mean Op. 78 ... as someone who has played both, I do think that the F-sharp major Sonata is much better-written than the Moonlight, but it also came eight years, ten sonatas, two concertos, and five symphonies later. I think he might have grown up just a little bit as a musician during that time, don't you? Of course he looked back on it, slightly confused why people loved it more than the stuff he'd written since then that was clearly so much more mature. Rachmaninoff felt the same about his famous C-sharp minor Prelude, Chopin about his Fantasie Impromptu.

That said, I still have a special place in my heart for the Moonlight Sonata. Like the earlier Pathetique, it is much more dramatic than anything else written at that time, and it really captures the imaginations of people who otherwise wouldn't know classical music well. Most people in Western culture have at least heard of it, whether or not they actually could recognize it. It got me into playing the piano as a preteen, that's for sure! Now, a decade and (nearly) a music degree later, do I see its faults and the ways Beethoven grew as an artist over the course of his career? Yes, very much so. But that doesn't mean it's overrated, any more than the C-sharp minor prelude of Rachmaninoff or Chopin's Fantasie Impromptu. I personally would prefer that people are interested in popular pieces like that and open to hearing new music, rather than completely rejecting classical music as a whole, which so often happens now.
Program:
Rachmaninoff Cello Sonata
Bach Prelude and Fugue in A flat, WTC 1
Beethoven Sonata Op. 31 No. 3 "The Hunt"
Brahms Op. 119
Florence Price Clouds
Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody No. 5

Offline visitor

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Re: Does anyone else feel the Moonlight Sonata is kind of overrated?
«Reply #31 on: September 29, 2021, 12:45:23 PM »
That's a harsh evaluation of the second movement. I think it's neat, and functions well as a breath of relief between the two emotionally tortured outer movements. I think it needs to be played properly to sound as fun as it actually is.
agreed , I played this for a major mid program jury and I spent the most time on cleaning and getting the right feel for the 2nd movement and it's my favorite movement in the entire work

Offline lelle

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Re: Does anyone else feel the Moonlight Sonata is kind of overrated?
«Reply #32 on: September 29, 2021, 09:10:23 PM »
First of all you mean Op. 78 ... as someone who has played both, I do think that the F-sharp major Sonata is much better-written than the Moonlight, but it also came eight years, ten sonatas, two concertos, and five symphonies later. I think he might have grown up just a little bit as a musician during that time, don't you? Of course he looked back on it, slightly confused why people loved it more than the stuff he'd written since then that was clearly so much more mature. Rachmaninoff felt the same about his famous C-sharp minor Prelude, Chopin about his Fantasie Impromptu.

Haha, I think this is a typical thing of any creator. The composer looks at their previous work as a craftsman, not as an audience member who gets emotionally gripped by what they hear. Beethoven looks at Op 78 and thinks it's better in terms of craft, but to somebody who hears the Moonlight sonata for the first time compared to hearing Op 78 for the first time, they're just going to be much more affected by the Moonlight sonata. Sometimes emotional impact, even if the creation itself is more crude, trumps craft.

As an example, a certain band I like created their "magnum opus" ie their most popular, well-known and loved album some 20 years ago. They themselves think they have written better albums since, and while it's true they have improved their musicianship and ability to craft dynamic and varied songs, that 20 year old album just has *something* in its emotional impact that makes up for the poorer "objective" qualities of the record.

Offline pianophile

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Re: Does anyone else feel the Moonlight Sonata is kind of overrated?
«Reply #33 on: September 30, 2021, 09:56:16 PM »
Yes, Beethoven himself explicitly felt that way. He said something along the lines of "A lot of folks have made such a big deal about this piece, but frankly I've written much better." Even before reading that, I always had an aversion to this sonata. Charles Rosen seemed to admire the third movement's unique presentation of volatility and fury, but I don't recall any other thoughts of his on this particular piece.

Of course, many (I think including LVB himself) have lamented the original publisher's "Moonlight" title (completely unauthorized by the composer) which many think does a disservice.

Offline jimroof

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Re: Does anyone else feel the Moonlight Sonata is kind of overrated?
«Reply #34 on: October 15, 2021, 10:38:57 PM »
It does, but it still produces a mixing of harmonies in certain instances that I find too disagreeable for the style. It just sounds dirty without any real artistic benefit to it - to my ears that is - and I'm not sure Beethoven wanted that. I tend to try to hold the pedal down and not change (not all the way but 1/3 or 1/2 or something like that) for as long as it works, and make small changes wherever the clashing of sounds gets too great if I don't.

If pedaling is not an instinct... then you have not yet learned how to pedal.  Good pedaling is like driving.  Little corrections, instinctively done, that keep the sound in the proper sonic lane.  There are some instances where explicit pedal markings have hit me as a total mystery (Chopin's C#m Scherzo at the end of the cascading figures that, if done literally, chop the sound off in a most abrupt manner).  These are the ones that you have to think about.  But 99% of the time the foot should simply know what to do without the slightest thought.
Chopin Ballades
Chopin Scherzos 2 and 3
Mephisto Waltz 1
Beethoven Piano Concerto 3
Schumann Concerto Am
Ginastera Piano Sonata
L'isle Joyeuse
Feux d'Artifice
Prokofiev Sonata Dm

Offline lelle

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Re: Does anyone else feel the Moonlight Sonata is kind of overrated?
«Reply #35 on: October 15, 2021, 11:17:51 PM »
If pedaling is not an instinct... then you have not yet learned how to pedal.  Good pedaling is like driving.  Little corrections, instinctively done, that keep the sound in the proper sonic lane.  There are some instances where explicit pedal markings have hit me as a total mystery (Chopin's C#m Scherzo at the end of the cascading figures that, if done literally, chop the sound off in a most abrupt manner).  These are the ones that you have to think about.  But 99% of the time the foot should simply know what to do without the slightest thought.

Well I agree with that! You pedal with your ear first and foremost. However, you can still break down and analyze what you did. You can help your ear knowing what to listen for and how to acquire it by consciously trying different things. It is, for example, very common that I see people who are maybe intermediate players that have not yet realized that a lot of pedalling can be done by pressing down the pedal just a little bit, like 1/4 to 1/2 of the way. I think that instincts that we are not born with are made through thousands of little experiences and insights that over time get automated and stuffed into the subconscious, which makes us in the end experience it as "instinct" because we now "just know" what to do.