Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, 1st movement

I mentioned this piece in a previous post because it is significant for me. The performance here is somewhat close to my own interpretation which has been with me since about 5th grade.

I prefer quite a bit more rubato and use of appoggiatura, not to mention my natural inclination toward creating a bit more musical tension to capitalize upon the resolve. Specifically, at 4:18, I prefer to lean (appoggiatura) into the chord progression a little more slowly so I can savor the harmonics before moving forward too hastily. The piece can easily be executed in a very robotic manner because of the constant movement of the 8th notes, however, an emotionally mature and sensitive artist will avoid this. In the video, the performer does a great job with the piece technically, but that emotional maturity and depth (musicianship) seems to be somewhat absent, IMHO.

When I was in 6th grade, I brought this piece to my piano teacher. I’d been playing it for a few years already and wanted to use it as one of my competition pieces. My teacher told me I didn’t have the technical skill or performance depth to successfully carry it off and insisted I stay with the piece she had previously chosen. However, I knew better [rebellion anyone?]. If there was any area of my life that I knew better than anyone, about myself, it was my inner life as a musician.

At a very young age I learned to channel ALL of my emotions into my music. For being very young, I had the ability to play such things as this Sonata with a maturity that was way beyond my chronological years. I had *lived* the pain of the piece. I knew what it meant. I carried it with me always. It was my comfort. My safe haven. I didn’t need words (my other safe haven). I didn’t need anything but for the ability to step into that musical vortex where everything was calm and serene. Time and space became irrelevant. This musical vortex represented a place where my ADHD brain focused and everything else that could have been a distraction melted far, far away, never even coming close to my unplugged hypervigilant radar. Was it dissociation or something else? Answer: doesn’t matter. Whatever “it” is, it – in part – saved me over and over and provided a foundation for resiliency that I might not have otherwise had.

Despite my piano teacher’s forbidding me to do it, I took the piece to competition anyway. I didn’t tell anyone. I just did it. I followed up the performance of this piece with a show of versatility and mastery by playing something complicated with a faster tempo and scads more notes. I can’t remember exactly what the piece was but “vitriol” could perhaps have described it. I earned unanimous superior ratings which validated what I already knew about myself and my music. The adjudicators’ comments were nothing short of amazing with observations of my maturity beyond my years and praise for my ability to sensitively nail the Sonata movement and, incidentally, the piece that followed. It wasn’t long after the competition that my piano teacher humbly told me it was time for me to “graduate” to a new teacher, one who could give me more from the technical side as well as from the musicianship side.

Musicianship is obviously one of my musical gifts and is somewhat reliant upon divine-given talent. To some degree, musicianship – intuitive musicianship – cannot be taught. This represents a clear delineation between talent and learned skill. The same intuitive source that has made me a gifted musician has facilitated success, due in part to my intuition, in other areas of my life. I can’t explain it and don’t really care to. Some things I just *know*.


4 thoughts on “Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, 1st movement

  1. I had a teacher tell me that I wasn’t ready to sell or display my handmade jewelry as it was too simple in style and technique … I won the 1st place award at my first showing. Sometimes, we just have to go with our gut feelings. ~~~~ : – )
    Moonlight Sonato a a classical favorite of mine. Brava for you for having confidence in – YOU !!!!

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