Search For Yourself Among Hundreds of option for the Moonlight Sonata.
by Aaron Green July 18, 2017
Ludwig van Beethoven composed the famous Moonlight Sonata in 1801, after agreeing to instruct Countess Giulietta Guicciardi, the cousin of his two students Therese and Josephine Brunsvik whom he had been teaching piano since 1799. Guiccaiardi was known for her beauty, and when she and her family moved to Vienna from Poland in 1800, she was quickly noticed by upper society. Shortly after their first few lessons, the two fell in love.
When Beethoven finished his new sonata, he dedicated it to Guicciardi, and it is believed he proposed to her quickly thereafter. Although she was willing to accept Beethoven’s proposal, one of her parents forbid her to ever marry him (likely due to their differing social statuses), and sadly, they never did. Guiccaiardi later became engaged to Count von Gallenberg, and married him in on November 14, 1803.
Typically, composers would write music after receiving a commission to do so (they had bills to pay, after all). However, based on the evidence (or lack thereof) Beethoven wrote Moonlight Sonata without receiving a commission. The original title of the sonata is “Quasi una fantasia” (Italian. almost a fantasy). The popular moniker Moonlight Sonata actually didn’t come about until roughly five years after Beethoven’s death in 1827. In 1832, German music critic Ludwig Rellstab wrote that the sonata reminded him of the reflected moonlight off Lake Lucerne, and since then, Moonlight Sonata has remained the official unofficial title of the sonata.
The Moonlight Sonata is divided into three separate movements.
As expected for one of the world's most famous and instantly recognizable pieces of music, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of recordings available. Though it would be impossible for me to listen to every single one, the following selections are ones I have come across in my life that are definitely worth looking into and even adding to your own classical music collection:
December 16, 1770 - Bonn
March 26, 1827 - Vienna
In 1740, Beethoven's father, Johann was born. Johann sang soprano in the electoral chapel where his father was Kapellmeister (chapel master).
Johann grew up proficient enough to teach violin, piano, and voice to earn a living. Johann married Maria Magdalena in 1767 and gave birth to Ludwig Maria in 1769, who died 6 days later. On December 17, 1770, Ludwig van Beethoven was born. Maria later gave birth to five other children, but only two survived, Caspar Anton Carl and Nikolaus Johann.
At a very early age, Beethoven received violin and piano lessons from his father. At the age of 8, he studied theory and keyboard with van den Eeden (former chapel organist). He also studied with several local organists, received piano lessons from Tobias Friedrich Pfeiffer, and Franz Rovantini gave him violin and viola lessons. Although Beethoven’s musical genius was compared to that of Mozart’s, his education never exceeded elementary level.
Beethoven was the assistant (and formal student) of Christian Gottlob Neefe.
As a teen, he performed more than he composed. In 1787, Neefe sent him to Vienna for reasons unknown, but many agree that he met and briefly studied with Mozart. Two weeks later, he returned home because his mother had tuberculosis. She died in July. His father took to drink, and Beethoven, only 19, petitioned to be recognized as the head of the house; he received half of his father's salary to support his family.
In 1792, Beethoven moved to Vienna. His father died in December that same year. He studied with Haydn for less than a year; their personalities did not mix well. Beethoven then studied with Johann Georg Albrechtsberger, the best-known teacher of counterpoint in Vienna. He studied counterpoint and contrapuntal exercises in free writing, in imitation, in two to four-part fugues, choral fugues, double counterpoint at the different intervals, double fugue, triple counterpoint, and canon.
After establishing himself, he began composing more. In 1800, he performed his first symphony and a septet (op. 20). Publishers soon began to compete for his newest works. While still in his 20s, Beethoven became deaf. His attitude and social life changed dramatically - he wanted to hide his impairment from the world. How could a great composer be deaf? Determined to overcome his disability, he wrote symphonies2, 3, and 4 before 1806. Symphony 3, Eroica, was originally titled Bonaparte as a tribute to Napoleon.
Beethoven’s fame began to pay off; he soon found himself prosperous. His symphonic works proved to be masterpieces (having stood the test of time) along with his other works.
Beethoven loved a woman named Fanny but never married. He spoke of her in a letter saying, "I found only one whom I shall doubtless never possess." In 1827, he died of dropsy. In a will wrote several days before his death, he left his estate to his nephew Karl, of whom he was legal guardian after Caspar Carl's death.