Think you can play the Moonlight Sonata? It’s not that easy, says Daniel Barenboim…

… in the latest of his explanatory videos.

Watch.

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  • Those who enjoyed Barenboim’s brief talk may enjoy Andras Schiff’s lengthier Moonlight Sonata lecture. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fW_Dv_GNQAo

    Schiff notes the name “Moonlight” was given by poet and critic Ludwig Rellstab. Referring to the name, Barenboim goes with the “Whoever invented it…”

    Schiff explains that it was Edwin Fischer’s book on Beethoven Sonatas where Fisher writes that Fischer was in the archives of the library of the Musik Verein in Vienna and there (quoting Fischer), “They showed me a piece of paper which was a sketch in Beethoven’s handwriting and Beethoven copied out from Mozart’s Don Giovanni the scene when Don Giovanni murders the Commendatore… and transposes it into C# minor… and it was crystal clear to me what this music was about. No “moonlight” but it’s a funeral scene, it’s a death scene thinking of Mozart’s Don Giovanni.”

    Barenboim notes that it is “not uninteresting to compare this with the music Mozart wrote in Don Giovanni” and that “somebody told me once that in Beethoven’s sketches there were a few bars of Don Giovanni written and then simply transposed a semitone higher”

    It seems to be fairly common knowledge now that Don Giovanni had an influence on the Moonlight. It’s nice in Schiff’s lecture that Schiff credits where this thought originated.

    Barenboim’s talk is time-limited and for a general audience so it is perhaps understandable he doesn’t provide detail.

  • He is also here playing his own “Barenboim-Maene” design of piano, which is notable for having straight, parallel strings, rather than the slightly diagonal strings of a modern concert grand. There are also various differences in soundboard construction to a modern grand, and each string is individually attached. The instrument was apparently inspired by Barenboim seeing Franz Liszt’s [19th century] piano. Most pleasing to see Barenboim taking a “historically informed” line…

  • I was attracted to what I believe is a Barenboim performance from a background soundtrack in the British TV drama Endeavour, recently, buying a EMI Classics 1967 recording, and also enjoying a more recent Youtube of Barenboim playing the sonata. In both, his first movement interpretation is striking for its slow melancholia and for transcending a romantic interpretation. That is what I think he is trying to convey in his brief talk. That the ‘dreamy moonlight’ is like a interpretative veil the music has worn for some time. I hear those recordings of Barenboim’s (first movement) as a lament for the world and what we have made of it. I think his interpretation is bringing forth something of Beethoven’s composition of relevance to our times.

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