It’s been a long time since I really got into a classical piece of music and worked it into memory. There’s so much to learn and so many pieces to choose from that it can be overwhelming to even decide where to start.
The Moonlight Sonata is a powerfully gorgeous and well known piece written by Ludwig van Beethoven. It was a piece I had learned many years ago while forming my musical self and provided a great place to at least start again.
Learning the piece is an exercise in numerous types of practice. From an exercise in patience, to learning to change one’s scope of working through individual notes to phrasings over large expanses, in the process of ironing out small difficult parts, in the importance of repetition, among other lessons, the piece is treasure trove of study.
There are such subtle shifts and changes that occur throughout the piece that, on initial impression, you would think such variations would hardly be noticed. However, tiny mistakes or deviations from the notes as written ring harshly upon the ear.
The simple triplets that are so characteristic of the piece show one of the main principles in learning:
Making that phrase move smoothly throughout the piece is such a practice in delicacy. The whole work is like an orchid – tough to grow, but elegantly beautiful and rewarding with diligent patience.
From time to time, I’ll attempt to do some variation on a piece such as I’ve done with George Harrison’s Here Comes the Sun or Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor. Attempts to do the same with the Moonlight Sonata have so far met with what I take as Beethoven’s scoffing at it from beyond the grave. That doesn’t mean I won’t still try. In the meantime, though, it is such a beautiful piece in its own right that I have to play it as it stands.