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Topic: Moonlight Sonata is overrated. Or is it just me?...  (Read 2261 times)

Offline leigh anne

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Is it just me or is Moonlight Sonata really overrated? No offense to those moonlight sonata fans, I think Moonlight Sonata is a nice piece but don't you think people's reactions are too much when they say "Wow!" Or things like that when a pianist plays that piece. I mean, isn't it just a chord repeating over and over again and just making things faster in the 3rd movement? There are lots of other better pieces than Moonlight Sonata. Anyone agree with me?
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Offline jamienc

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Re: Moonlight Sonata is overrated. Or is it just me?...
Reply #1 on: July 09, 2022, 11:14:17 AM
Overrated? No. Overplayed? Yes.

I think the most fascinating thing about it is that it is a Classical multi-movement cycle without a first movement. I’ll wait for the responses on the statement I just made. 😌

Offline bwl_13

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Re: Moonlight Sonata is overrated. Or is it just me?...
Reply #2 on: July 10, 2022, 04:37:39 PM
This thread shows up all the time. No I don't think it's necessarily overrated, but it overshadows some other great Beethoven sonatas. There's a lot of interesting aspects to it and the "quasi una fantasia" elements are quite experimental (although not as much as 27/1).

The shifting in weight to the finale also foreshadows the late works which is a distribution that wasn't followed all that much after Beethoven.
Second Year Undergrad:
Bach BWV 914
Beethoven Op. 58
Reger Op. 24 No. 5
Rachmaninoff Op. 39 No. 3 & No. 5

Offline leigh anne

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Re: Moonlight Sonata is overrated. Or is it just me?...
Reply #3 on: July 10, 2022, 04:58:36 PM
Overrated? No. Overplayed? Yes.

I think the most fascinating thing about it is that it is a Classical multi-movement cycle without a first movement. I’ll wait for the responses on the statement I just made. 😌



Don't you think it is overplayed because it is overrated? People would not go around digging moonlight sonata pieces just for nothing. Personally I play pieces because for me they sound nice. I don't grab a piano sheet just because I saw or heard someone play that.
"Music speaks what cannot be expressed, soothes the mind and gives it rest, heals the heart and makes it whole, flows from heaven to the soul"

Offline leigh anne

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Re: Moonlight Sonata is overrated. Or is it just me?...
Reply #4 on: July 10, 2022, 05:01:21 PM
This thread shows up all the time. No I don't think it's necessarily overrated, but it overshadows some other great Beethoven sonatas. There's a lot of interesting aspects to it and the "quasi una fantasia" elements are quite experimental (although not as much as 27/1).

The shifting in weight to the finale also foreshadows the late works which is a distribution that wasn't followed all that much after Beethoven.


Yes it does overshadows some other great beethoven sonatas. Don't you think because it is overrated?
"Music speaks what cannot be expressed, soothes the mind and gives it rest, heals the heart and makes it whole, flows from heaven to the soul"

Offline musikalischer_wirbelwind_280

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Re: Moonlight Sonata is overrated. Or is it just me?...
Reply #5 on: July 10, 2022, 07:06:41 PM
I could be mixing up details, but I remember reading Beethoven himself considered the Op.27 No.1 Sonata superior to its sister.

Don't you think it is overplayed because it is overrated?

I don't think those two are mutually inclusive. Take Chopin's "Nocturne Op.27 No.2" or Rachmaninoff's famous (infamous?)  ;D "Prelude in C# minor" (which he got to utterly detest himself), neither of which are overrated, but overplayed? Without a shadow of a doubt.

As for people exaggerating their reactions to any given piece, I agree it's stupid and cringey as hell, but that doesn't necessarily mean that said piece is overrated.

Offline jamienc

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Re: Moonlight Sonata is overrated. Or is it just me?...
Reply #6 on: July 10, 2022, 07:46:21 PM
Don't you think it is overplayed because it is overrated? People would not go around digging moonlight sonata pieces just for nothing. Personally I play pieces because for me they sound nice. I don't grab a piano sheet just because I saw or heard someone play that.

Not to be too philosophical, but something you mentioned in your post is really what we were talking about when discussing works like the Moonlight Sonata and the perceived quality of it in light of its popularity. When you say “because for me they sound nice,” what we are really talking about here is “X-factor.” It is that special something about a musical work or a composer/performer that you can’t quite describe with words but obviously generates a tremendous amount of allure. Beethoven, Louis Armstrong, Elvis… these are all good examples of those once-in-a-lifetime restructuralists that truly upend everything that had been done before and influence scores of musicians even long after they are gone. The Moonlight is just one good example of that legacy.

I don’t think it is overrated despite its ubiquity. I do believe, however, that we have become desensitized to its true impact considering how much music history has occurred since then. Imagine being one of the first persons to hear this sonata performed before anybody else had a chance to hear it. It’s difficult to imagine how that would affect someone considering how different Beethoven’s style of writing was at that time compared to everybody else. Not to take away from the impact of other composers, but in my opinion Beethoven reflects the human condition much more effectively than say, Mozart or Schubert. Some might call it pathos. Others might call it affect. Whatever the case, it’s difficult for me (when playing Beethoven) to separate my life experiences and emotional perspective from that which Beethoven is trying to communicate through his music. For example, with the Moonlight Sonata, there is calm reflection, joy and satisfaction, and outright rage and frustration all in one 20 minute period. The fact that Beethoven was able to capture all of this in such a compact form and get so much passion and musical distance from so little material is truly amazing. I think this is why so many people have been drawn to the piece for the last 200 years and will continue to draw interest for the next 200. It just satisfies our inner need to conquer such things.

I need to stop being so long-winded or people are going to stop reading my posts.

Offline musikalischer_wirbelwind_280

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Re: Moonlight Sonata is overrated. Or is it just me?...
Reply #7 on: July 10, 2022, 10:26:29 PM
I need to stop being so long-winded or people are going to stop reading my posts.

Please don't, I for one very much enjoyed reading it!
Brevity and conciseness can be good and sometimes unavoidable, but it seems to me this era of ours is taking that a bit too far.

Life doesn't have to be an aphorism...
See what I did there?  ;D

Offline leigh anne

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Re: Moonlight Sonata is overrated. Or is it just me?...
Reply #8 on: July 11, 2022, 03:49:05 AM
As for people exaggerating their reactions to any given piece, I agree it's stupid and cringey as hell, but that doesn't necessarily mean that said piece is overrated.

Why not? If it isn't overrated people wouldn't even have that reaction.
"Music speaks what cannot be expressed, soothes the mind and gives it rest, heals the heart and makes it whole, flows from heaven to the soul"

Offline leigh anne

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Re: Moonlight Sonata is overrated. Or is it just me?...
Reply #9 on: July 11, 2022, 03:57:59 AM
Not to be too philosophical, but something you mentioned in your post is really what we were talking about when discussing works like the Moonlight Sonata and the perceived quality of it in light of its popularity. When you say “because for me they sound nice,” what we are really talking about here is “X-factor.” It is that special something about a musical work or a composer/performer that you can’t quite describe with words but obviously generates a tremendous amount of allure. Beethoven, Louis Armstrong, Elvis… these are all good examples of those once-in-a-lifetime restructuralists that truly upend everything that had been done before and influence scores of musicians even long after they are gone. The Moonlight is just one good example of that legacy.

I don’t think it is overrated despite its ubiquity. I do believe, however, that we have become desensitized to its true impact considering how much music history has occurred since then. Imagine being one of the first persons to hear this sonata performed before anybody else had a chance to hear it. It’s difficult to imagine how that would affect someone considering how different Beethoven’s style of writing was at that time compared to everybody else. Not to take away from the impact of other composers, but in my opinion Beethoven reflects the human condition much more effectively than say, Mozart or Schubert. Some might call it pathos. Others might call it affect. Whatever the case, it’s difficult for me (when playing Beethoven) to separate my life experiences and emotional perspective from that which Beethoven is trying to communicate through his music. For example, with the Moonlight Sonata, there is calm reflection, joy and satisfaction, and outright rage and frustration all in one 20 minute period. The fact that Beethoven was able to capture all of this in such a compact form and get so much passion and musical distance from so little material is truly amazing. I think this is why so many people have been drawn to the piece for the last 200 years and will continue to draw interest for the next 200. It just satisfies our inner need to conquer such things.

I need to stop being so long-winded or people are going to stop reading my posts.


People have different interpretation for certain things. Whatever emotion pieces bring to every person, it is still the same notes but it might have a different impact on different personalities. As for me, I think Beethoven is a wonderful composer, and he made a lot of pieces that people continue to like even though it  was made centuries ago and that is nice. But moonlight sonata is overrated.  That is why it overshadows some other beautiful pieces made by the same person which I think are better than Moonlight Sonata.
That is my opinion. Remember, we all have different insights and perspective and nobody can change that. I still think Moonlight Sonata is overrated.
"Music speaks what cannot be expressed, soothes the mind and gives it rest, heals the heart and makes it whole, flows from heaven to the soul"

Offline bwl_13

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Re: Moonlight Sonata is overrated. Or is it just me?...
Reply #10 on: July 11, 2022, 05:28:43 AM

People have different interpretation for certain things. Whatever emotion pieces bring to every person, it is still the same notes but it might have a different impact on different personalities. As for me, I think Beethoven is a wonderful composer, and he made a lot of pieces that people continue to like even though it  was made centuries ago and that is nice. But moonlight sonata is overrated.  That is why it overshadows some other beautiful pieces made by the same person which I think are better than Moonlight Sonata.
That is my opinion. Remember, we all have different insights and perspective and nobody can change that. I still think Moonlight Sonata is overrated.
I don't think you're alone, but calling it overrated might be an overstatement. Consider the number of pianists who consider it to be one of their favourite pieces. I honestly doubt that most pianists familiar with the Beethoven 32 have it in their top five. I could be grossly underestimating the popularity of this piece amongst pianists but I've always seen this piece as something that draws people to the piano, rather than a piece one discovers and grows to cherish. In case that's too vague, many non-classical audiences know the outer movements of the C#m sonata, and don't know many if any other Beethoven sonatas, thus it's popular merely by being the one people know. I don't think that's exactly being overrated, rather "overplayed" (which is a concept I don't really like).

The way you seem to be approaching your question is, "do you think that the moonlight sonata is one of beethoven's best?" or "is moonlight sonata one of your favourite pieces"?

I think the piece deserves its place. It's perhaps a perfect sonata for an audience unfamiliar with classical music and it's got many inspired moments. Regardless, it is not close to one of my favourite works by Beethoven and that doesn't mean I'm being hypocritical (as I hope I've argued convincingly above).
Second Year Undergrad:
Bach BWV 914
Beethoven Op. 58
Reger Op. 24 No. 5
Rachmaninoff Op. 39 No. 3 & No. 5

Offline musikalischer_wirbelwind_280

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Re: Moonlight Sonata is overrated. Or is it just me?...
Reply #11 on: July 11, 2022, 07:31:34 AM

People have different interpretation for certain things. Whatever emotion pieces bring to every person, it is still the same notes but it might have a different impact on different personalities. As for me, I think Beethoven is a wonderful composer, and he made a lot of pieces that people continue to like even though it  was made centuries ago and that is nice. But moonlight sonata is overrated.  That is why it overshadows some other beautiful pieces made by the same person which I think are better than Moonlight Sonata.
That is my opinion. Remember, we all have different insights and perspective and nobody can change that. I still think Moonlight Sonata is overrated.

It seems to me that, in any case, you're already set on your opinion about it being overrated, and you're looking for other people who share that opinion and who will confirm it here, rather than willing to listen to and consider arguments that may not agree with that view and use that wider perspective to help you decide whether you still find it overrated or you might actually change your mind about it.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to have a fight with you, nor am I saying you should change your opinion about that work. If that's what you think about it, then that's just how things are, and that's ok, but then it's rather a waste of time to ask people for their opinion on the matter.
What's the point of having others confirm your opinion, if you're already convinced it's true?
And what's the point of having others refute it and offer different takes on the subject, if you're not going to even consider their arguments, to begin with?

Offline leigh anne

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Re: Moonlight Sonata is overrated. Or is it just me?...
Reply #12 on: July 11, 2022, 04:46:18 PM
It seems to me that, in any case, you're already set on your opinion about it being overrated, and you're looking for other people who share that opinion and who will confirm it here, rather than willing to listen to and consider arguments that may not agree with that view and use that wider perspective to help you decide whether you still find it overrated or you might actually change your mind about it.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to have a fight with you, nor am I saying you should change your opinion about that work. If that's what you think about it, then that's just how things are, and that's ok, but then it's rather a waste of time to ask people for their opinion on the matter.
What's the point of having others confirm your opinion, if you're already convinced it's true?
And what's the point of having others refute it and offer different takes on the subject, if you're not going to even consider their arguments, to begin with?


I did not post this to help me decide whether Moonlight Sonata is overrated or not. I also did not post this thinking I might change my mind. I expected many to disagree that moonlight sonata is overrated, and to share their reasons why and as I have said, we have our own perspective and I am not trying to change that the same as you are not trying to change mine. And most of all this post is not only for people to confirm that they have the same insights as me, so we could party and talk about the similarities we have. No no no that isn't what I wanted for this post. I posted this for people to share their their opinions and feel free to say what they have in mind. Yes, I am convinced it is true, that moonlight sonata is overrated but I do consider what you guys say. However I don't get your thoughts on this topic, so I try to suggest things that YOU might consider but I don't expect you to change your mind. The whole point is, I didn't post this because I don't know what to think about moonlight sonata and stuff but I posted this because I want to know what others think about this piece. I am curious with your opinions so I wanna know what you think and not to trouble you by figuring out what I think.
"Music speaks what cannot be expressed, soothes the mind and gives it rest, heals the heart and makes it whole, flows from heaven to the soul"

Offline ranjit

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Re: Moonlight Sonata is overrated. Or is it just me?...
Reply #13 on: July 11, 2022, 10:47:28 PM
Life doesn't have to be an aphorism...
Haha, nice one!

Offline bwl_13

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Re: Moonlight Sonata is overrated. Or is it just me?...
Reply #14 on: July 12, 2022, 09:07:33 PM

I did not post this to help me decide whether Moonlight Sonata is overrated or not. I also did not post this thinking I might change my mind. I expected many to disagree that moonlight sonata is overrated, and to share their reasons why and as I have said, we have our own perspective and I am not trying to change that the same as you are not trying to change mine. And most of all this post is not only for people to confirm that they have the same insights as me, so we could party and talk about the similarities we have. No no no that isn't what I wanted for this post. I posted this for people to share their their opinions and feel free to say what they have in mind. Yes, I am convinced it is true, that moonlight sonata is overrated but I do consider what you guys say. However I don't get your thoughts on this topic, so I try to suggest things that YOU might consider but I don't expect you to change your mind. The whole point is, I didn't post this because I don't know what to think about moonlight sonata and stuff but I posted this because I want to know what others think about this piece. I am curious with your opinions so I wanna know what you think and not to trouble you by figuring out what I think.
Regardless of whether you change your mind or not, you haven't really responded to any of the points made against your case. Rather you mostly seemed to focus on personal opinion which really can't be argued. There are few objectives in music, but as I mentioned in my previous reply
The way you seem to be approaching your question is, "do you think that the moonlight sonata is one of beethoven's best?" or "is moonlight sonata one of your favourite pieces"?

While overrated is obviously a subjective claim, you can make a case for why it is or isn't. It's nearly impossible to have any meaningful discussion about whether something is a favourite or whether you don't like it, especially when you're very vague.

For instance:
I mean, isn't it just a chord repeating over and over again and just making things faster in the 3rd movement? There are lots of other better pieces than Moonlight Sonata. Anyone agree with me?
The first statement is objectively false, but I'm guessing you were using hyperbole to make a point. However, can you not say the same for so many other pieces?

"Bach WTC is just a bunch of chords repeating and the second movement is a fugue. There are lots of better pieces than WTC."

There is harmonic significance to the first movement of this piece, its connection to Mozart's Don Giovani (as Edwin Fischer points out in his book), as well as the pedal instructions. I like Schiff's comparison of this movement to a Bach prelude, which is why I used the WTC as an example.

The quote above (not my made up one of course) is the most specific you've gotten about the music itself, and you haven't said much about other points made in favour of the sonata's significance and structural elements. Your longest reply consisted of you saying that everybody interprets music differently and is emotionally affected in different ways, which would be a solid response if somebody told you that it's beautiful and proceeded to give you a long romantic explanation of how beautiful it is. By all means your point is true, but it's sort of irrelevant and dismissive in the context of this thread.

What I'm getting at is that overrated means something pretty specific, and you seem to be approaching it from a different perspective. As you said, you weren't expecting your mind to be changed, but all good discussions feature a degree of back and forth, do they not? I think this is where the "echo-chamber" sentiment musikalischer hinted at is coming from.
Second Year Undergrad:
Bach BWV 914
Beethoven Op. 58
Reger Op. 24 No. 5
Rachmaninoff Op. 39 No. 3 & No. 5

Offline musikalischer_wirbelwind_280

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Offline symphonicdance

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Re: Moonlight Sonata is overrated. Or is it just me?...
Reply #16 on: July 15, 2022, 01:57:46 AM
Maybe if OP takes Schiff's suggestion/approach that 1st movement of Moonlight is indeed a funeral march (as Moonlight was not titled by the composer), then he/she may have other feelings and experiences towards the work  :P

Offline bwl_13

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Re: Moonlight Sonata is overrated. Or is it just me?...
Reply #17 on: July 15, 2022, 04:15:37 AM
Maybe if OP takes Schiff's suggestion/approach that 1st movement of Moonlight is indeed a funeral march (as Moonlight was not titled by the composer), then he/she may have other feelings and experiences towards the work  :P
His interpretations for Beethoven are very convincing. He draws from multiple sources and even when they're a bit outside the norm they still come off natural.

He definitely changed my mind about the first movement. His analogy of dusting off and restoring an old painting really connected with me.
Second Year Undergrad:
Bach BWV 914
Beethoven Op. 58
Reger Op. 24 No. 5
Rachmaninoff Op. 39 No. 3 & No. 5

Offline steve_uk

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Re: Moonlight Sonata is overrated. Or is it just me?...
Reply #18 on: July 31, 2022, 06:00:43 AM
Is it just me or is Moonlight Sonata really overrated? No offense to those moonlight sonata fans, I think Moonlight Sonata is a nice piece but don't you think people's reactions are too much when they say "Wow!" Or things like that when a pianist plays that piece. I mean, isn't it just a chord repeating over and over again and just making things faster in the 3rd movement? There are lots of other better pieces than Moonlight Sonata. Anyone agree with me?
I take it you're a non-European.

Offline doctormatthew

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Re: Moonlight Sonata is overrated. Or is it just me?...
Reply #19 on: July 31, 2022, 07:18:30 AM
My thoughts:
1.  "Overrated" isn't a word with meaning when applied to classical music - who is doing the rating?
2. I relistened to my old recordings of "highly rated" from the 1950's & 60's-the ones I grew up with, and immediately "downrated" them because, at my present ripe old age, I could not follow the phrasings taken in the 1st movement, which made no sense from a lyrical perspective and felt totally plodding.  Apparently, those pianists read the tempo marking (adagio sostenuto) without noting Beethoven's 2/2 time signature.  There must be only 2 beats per measure; those beats represent a slow tempo, but still allow for complete lyrical phrases.  Many current day pianists implement that change.
3. The middle movement, likewise, dragged on with no personality in my old recordings, with 3 beats per measure and sometimes 6.  But it's a minuet!  Try thinking of anyone dancing to it.  In dance, one experiences 1 downbeat per measure, and would want the tempo to accommodate that fact. If you play it like a danceable minuet, you can fully appreciate the syncopation in the B section, as well as what I think was Beethoven's intent as merely to transition to the last movement (perhaps as in the Appassionata, sonata and several others).
4. The 3rd movement really must be played Presto, if you can do it cleanly.  But again, the time signature assists proper interpretation. Playing in 4 at that speed, the incredible energy and momentum generated by the 1st theme and its development is what this piece is about; the lyrical 2nd theme must really sing, but without losing that momentum.
5. Overrated? Or under-nuanced performances drilled into our brains from hearing them too many times?

Offline brogers70

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Re: Moonlight Sonata is overrated. Or is it just me?...
Reply #20 on: July 31, 2022, 10:31:31 AM
I take it you're a non-European.
Wow.

Offline bwl_13

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Re: Moonlight Sonata is overrated. Or is it just me?...
Reply #21 on: July 31, 2022, 10:48:05 PM
I take it you're a non-European.
Weird take.
Second Year Undergrad:
Bach BWV 914
Beethoven Op. 58
Reger Op. 24 No. 5
Rachmaninoff Op. 39 No. 3 & No. 5

Offline napede

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Re: Moonlight Sonata is overrated. Or is it just me?...
Reply #22 on: February 06, 2023, 05:31:44 PM
The entire piece is far, far too easy to play in a horribly unmusical manner, and unfortunately that is often how it is performed. After a few bad experiences, it is no wonder that someone might decide that they never want to hear it again. Much like Fur Elise.

Offline mrcreosote

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Re: Moonlight Sonata is overrated. Or is it just me?...
Reply #23 on: February 22, 2023, 05:41:07 AM
The first movement is iconic.  But if you react to it technically and intellectually, it is nothing.  But if you connect with its emotion, it is monumental.  And the miracle is that it was accomplished with the simplest of constructs and technique. One might argue it is even underrated.
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