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I appear to have tendonitis in my left elbow, so am having to limit my practice on new pieces, and decided to return to some pieces which I first learned many moons ago, including this piece. The 1st movement is very gentle on the left arm, so is particularly suitable for me right now!!

SoundCloud - Moonlight Sonata mvt 1

This piece can generate quite a bit of heated discussion, but I decided I would risk sharing my interpretation of it with everyone. Your comments and/or (constructive) criticisms would be very welcome... smile

I used to play it a little faster, but for now I have chosen this somewhat slow tempo consciously, and purposely. (I dislike Gould's rushed-sounding interpretation of this piece)

It might also be nice to get some other people to post their recordings of this piece, since this is one I know is in a lot of people's repertoire! I'm sure we could get a huge variety of different interpretations, which could be very interesting.

So, feel free to add your renditions to this thread...1st movement only ideally, for consistency?


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The melody is projected nicely. I cant hear the bass line well. It may be a problem recording from a keyboard. I think the only solution is to buy a steinway d concert grand piano and rerecord! Thank you for sharing.

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As I have great respect for Beethoven's immortal and very popular masterpiece:

Wanted to add a note regarding a detail regarding the middle arpeggio section in which many times I have heard pianists playing the final descending arpeggio incorrectly -- measures 5 and 6 in the notated example below -- it should be EXACT triplet groups but they are sometimes incorrectly performed and broken into two-note groupings while descending in measures 5 and 6 -- in order to keep things metrically correct the entire passage should played / heard / denoted in clear triplet groups without accenting the first note in each triplet -- and, the triplet groups can be deliberately and quietly counted in one's mind as they are played:

[Linked Image]

Also, here is my own recording made at the Roland V-Piano:

[Please note 19 seconds of silence before playing starts]

https://fidbak.audio/grandbb71/player/312023ef45d0/bd4e43fb26df

Extra note:

Do believe that the original poster (i.e., Chris James) does NOT make the amateurish mistake in incorrectly counting the arpeggio triplets as it appears to be correctly played -- and, the more evenly one can play this passage without speeding it up (or, slowing it down) -- the better it will be. One must be sure to play the triplets as Beethoven has notated and keep it flowing and steady -- therefore, Chris -- well done! grin

As for my own recording above I do happen to carefully follow the triplet section exactly as notated and the very slow tempo has been fashioned after and happens to be quite close to the same tempo / timing as in the legendary recording by Rudolf Serkin, here:



To my ears this is quite sublime!

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Do you have some examples of who is playing in groups of 2 ? As the whole piece is written in triplets, I dont see why a top pianist would suddenly shift to group the notes by 2. If that is the case, given the tempo, it is certainly a phrasing choice.

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Originally Posted by Sidokar
Do you have some examples of who is playing in groups of 2 ? As the whole piece is written in triplets, I dont see why a top pianist would suddenly shift to group the notes by 2. If that is the case, given the tempo, it is certainly a phrasing choice.

I should try to clarify things here a bit by saying that most (if not all) concert pianists do NOT fall prone to this amateurish error in grouping that final descending arpeggio (that I have marked with circles in the example) and play the correct triplets as written. The two-note groupings can sometimes be heard with amateur performers that are not deliberately and carefully COUNTING the triplet groupings and this is more apparent when the arpeggio is sped up somewhat when it should be played very EVENLY and not faster -- so, perhaps HEARING these two-note groups could be an error on my part (the listener) as I hear the pianist phrasing these notes differently? It could be a matter of perception by the listener if the performer is not consciously intending to play or phrase two-note groups? Here is a pianist that sounds like she has done this on that final descending arpeggio (i.e., measures 5 & 6 in the example) as she speeds it up just a bit which throws off my hearing the proper triplet groupings and perhaps she is grouping them in twos and have even heard an extra note that has been added in to the 3rd beat in measure 6 -- A - [D# - F# - (A)] -- where the last "A" note should NOT be added! This makes the 6th measure sound like an extra triplet group has been added just before the C# - F# - A notes in the last 4th beat. I do apologize if you do not exactly follow what I am attempting to point out although it is very easy to make mistakes in this passage if it is not played very carefully:



Again, most professional pianists do not fall prone to making this grouping error as I usually hear amateur pianists doing this.

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Thanks Moo!

I've only had my roland for 6 months and I'm already itching to get to my local dealer to test out the more expensive digitals (mainly because of the slight heaviness of the FP10 keys which I find tiring, and makes it incredibly difficult to perform nice trills) I would dearly love to have an acoustic of any sort..so a Steinway grand would be lovely.

Sadly, I'm not sure I could fit it in my flat...

The tone of this keyboard isn't well-loved in a lot of circles, and the bass is one area where it isn't very "rich" sounding, so I can certainly emphasise the bass more. Some additional reverb may also help I guess. The upright I learned this piece on had quite a large sound, so I tend to err on the softer side to this day....but I will experiment with this later!

Thanks for the feedback smile


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I do know what you mean. I used to play this section wrong when I first learned it...and far too fast. So I do have to be careful not to slip back into that. Sometimes it's touch and go perhaps wink

I think any rhythm issues here become most noticeable at the end of that phrase (the last two circles) where, helpfully, my score has the first beats of the last 2 triplet sets marked as accented (as second voice parts). If you haven't been playing triplets then that last accent will stick out..

Though actually my score also accents the 2nd note of the second-to-last triplet set...to create a syncopated effect presumably, which complicates the picture slightly.

Music theory was never my strongest point...!


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Yep...the issue is very noticeable in that YT clip..

I like your performance. Very nice.

A few things I picked up which were interesting.
- You appear to play all 3 notes on the first beat of measure 30 with your left hand? I've always opted to jump that octave step in my RH, which I think made keeping the triplet rhythm feel easier for me. Is there any particular reason you chose to play it that way?
- You do what a lot of piano greats do which is to use a lot of rubato underneath the semiquaver melody parts. My old piano teacher made a big deal about not doing that too much if at all...so still I tend not to. But given how many times I've heard significant rubato on "blue chip" recordings it's clear that it's "pianist's choice" on this!
- You linger on the very final notes of the piece. I probably don't hold mine quite long enough, in retrospect, but I also try not to rallentando the ending, just pause on the final "toll of the bell" so to speak.
- I'm glad you marcato the chord progression from measure 57. For me it is the peak of the piece's development and absolutely deserves to be played with extra passion.


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Originally Posted by grand_BB_71
The two-note groupings can sometimes be heard with amateur performers that are not deliberately and carefully COUNTING the triplet groupings and this is more apparent when the arpeggio is sped up somewhat when it should be played very EVENLY and not faster -- so, perhaps HEARING these two-note groups could be an error on my part (the listener) as I hear the pianist phrasing these notes differently? It could be a matter of perception by the listener if the performer is not consciously intending to play or phrase two-note groups? Here is a pianist that sounds like she has done this on that final descending arpeggio (i.e., measures 5 & 6 in the example) as she speeds it up just a bit which throws off my hearing the proper triplet groupings and perhaps she is grouping them in twos and have even heard an extra note that has been added in to the 3rd beat in measure 6 -- A - [D# - F# - (A)] -- where the last "A" note should NOT be added! This makes the 6th measure sound like an extra triplet group has been added just before the C# - F# - A notes in the last 4th beat. I do apologize if you do not exactly follow what I am attempting to point out although it is very easy to make mistakes in this passage if it is not played very carefully:


Again, most professional pianists do not fall prone to making this grouping error as I usually hear amateur pianists doing this.

Ha, ok. I got your point. Yes I thought you were talking about pro versions, which I have not yet encountered with this grouping. So your point makes sense.

I understand what you are saying. In the video there is no doubt that the person goes by 2 notes in bar 36 (your bar 5) and 37. I am not sure that it is completely intentional or not. For the rest of the piece she has been playing consistently in triplets. I think the main issue though is that she obviously decided to make some sort of effect in those 2 bars by increasing the tempo. She obviously put a strong accent on the downbeat of bar 36 and then starts to accelerate. It is possible that she naturally shifted to a duple meter but she goes back to triplets on the last one in bar 37. But my guess is that it is likely a deliberate decision. Which I think is unfortunate because it really does not work very well at all; both the strong accent, the sudden acceleration and the shift to a duple meter sound incongruous.

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Originally Posted by Chris James
I like your performance. Very nice.

A few things I picked up which were interesting.

1) - You appear to play all 3 notes on the first beat of measure 30 with your left hand? I've always opted to jump that octave step in my RH, which I think made keeping the triplet rhythm feel easier for me. Is there any particular reason you chose to play it that way?

2) - You linger on the very final notes of the piece. I probably don't hold mine quite long enough, in retrospect, but I also try not to rallentando the ending, just pause on the final "toll of the bell" so to speak.

@Chris:

Thanks -- glad that you enjoyed the recording as the Roland V-Piano can be a joy to play on when one can increase the resonance and decay time to a level in which it sounds nearly like an acoustic grand piano.

As for clarification on your comments:

1) No -- the three (3) notes at measure 30 were all taken by the right hand (as notated) and my exact fingering was -- 1, 5, 2 -- [E, E, G#] -- as it makes sense to play the two E's as an octave and just shift the hand to take the G# with the 2nd finger so that the next note (C#) can be played with the 4th finger. It is easy to shift the hand to the next position without breaking the triplet.

2) As I take FULL time on the final two chords by mentally (i.e., quietly) counting SIX (6) triplet beats per each chord, otherwise, they are sometimes played too quickly.

Practice eventually makes all of this better! grin

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Originally Posted by Sidokar
Ha, ok. I got your point. Yes I thought you were talking about pro versions, which I have not yet encountered with this grouping. So your point makes sense.

I understand what you are saying. In the video there is no doubt that the person goes by 2 notes in bar 36 (your bar 5) and 37. I am not sure that it is completely intentional or not. For the rest of the piece she has been playing consistently in triplets. I think the main issue though is that she obviously decided to make some sort of effect in those 2 bars by increasing the tempo. She obviously put a strong accent on the downbeat of bar 36 and then starts to accelerate. It is possible that she naturally shifted to a duple meter but she goes back to triplets on the last one in bar 37. But my guess is that it is likely a deliberate decision. Which I think is unfortunate because it really does not work very well at all; both the strong accent, the sudden acceleration and the shift to a duple meter sound incongruous.

@Sidokar:

Yes, as there are MANY pianists that I have heard making phrasing (and other wrong note) errors in this arpeggio section -- glad that you also happen to agree on this!

With very careful practice one can avoid these mistakes.


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