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Pianist Mikael Darmanie performs with the Cape Symphony in May 2022

What Makes Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” Special?

Pianist Mikael Darmanie will perform Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” with the Cape Symphony at Beethoven’s 9th: Ode to Joy – but what is it that makes the “Moonlight Sonata” so special?

The formal name of the piece is “Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor,” written in 1801, when Ludwig van Beethoven was in his early thirties. It also came with the subtitle, Sonata quasi una fantasia, translated from the Italian as “sonata in the manner of a fantasy.” Thirty years after publication, and five years after Beethoven’s death, a German music critic named Ludwig Rellstab compared the first movement of “Piano Sonata No. 14” to moonlight shining on Lake Lucerne (a lake in Switzerland). “Moonlight Sonata” quickly became the well-known name and was used in published copies of the work in both German (“Mondscheinsonate") and English.

We don’t know why Beethoven wrote that subtitle about “the manner of a fantasy,” but it is fact that the sonata does deviate from the norms of composing at the time. Traditionally, the movements of a sonata were arranged in a fast-slow-fast tempo pattern. In contrast, the three movements in the “Moonlight Sonata” are slow, moderately fast, and very quick/excited. The first movement is solemn, the second movement was described by composer Franz Liszt as “a flower between two chasms,” and the final movement has been described as “stormy,” “unbridled,” and “ferocious.” Typical for Beethoven, the “Moonlight Sonata” is filled with emotion and rebellious in its form.

Beethoven dedicated the “Moonlight Sonata” to Countess Giulietta Guicciardi of Austria, a young woman who was his piano student for a short time. She may be the “enchanting girl” he referenced in an 1801 letter to a friend, although he had no hope of marrying her and she married a count in 1803.

According to ClassicFM, a 2020 survey in the UK showed that “Moonlight Sonata” was the most popular piece of music to fall asleep to (although the site notes that it is most likely the first movement that the survey respondents meant, which has been referred to as “dreamy”). Our performance will not put you to sleep though, we promise!

Our special guest Mikael Darmanie has performed around the world, including appearances at The Weill Institute at Carnegie Hall, The Moscow Conservatory, and the Mainly Mozart Festival. You may have seen him in his role as keyboardist and DJ for the New York-based group Warp Trio, described as "a talented group that exemplifies the genre-obliterating direction of contemporary classical music” (Columbia Free Times).

A strong advocate for the music being created today, Mikael is a frequent performer in New York City's new music scene in places such as Times Square, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Natural History Museum, and Joe's Pub. Mikael is currently finishing his doctorate at Stony Brook University. We’re excited to welcome him to the Cape Symphony stage to perform one of Beethoven’s most popular pieces.

We invite you to experience the "Moonlight Sonata" at Beethoven’s 9th: Ode to Joy, on Saturday, May 14, 2022 at 7:30 PM & Sunday, May 15, 2022 at 3:00 PM. For more information and to purchase tickets for Beethoven’s 9th: Ode to Joy, visit capesymphony.org, call the Box Office at 508-362-1111, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or visit 1060 Falmouth Road in Hyannis, MA. The Cape Symphony Box Office is open Monday – Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

With thanks to Wikipedia.

 

 

 

 

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