I've always thought of this piece as belonging to the super-difficult, virtuoso repertoire. It sounds fiendishly difficult, and incredibly impressive. I've often seen it cited here as a piece that people dream of being able to play one day. I well remember a few years ago, browsing the sheet music in my favourite music shop when somebody trying out a piano hammered out a flawless, barnstorming, performance of it that left me absolutely stunned (and with a severely reduced appetite for the early-intermediate fare I was browsing in the search for something new to play).
Back in the same shop today, I picked up the latest edition of Pianist, and noticed that this movement is included in the score section. I was almost as stunned as I was on that day years ago to see that the piece is marked 'Intermediate/Advanced' (NOT 'Advanced') ! I quote from the comments at the top of
the score - "Don't be put off by the presto tempo... if you practice it carefully, building up the tempo ever so slowly, you will reach a lively tempo in no time.".
Could this really be an 'Intermediate/Advanced' piece, and hence accessible to ordinary mortals in general and Adult Beginners in particular ? I'd love to read any thoughts on this, especially if you've had a go at playing it.
I am a new poster here on the Piano World forums, and I happened on this old thread as a result of a search using the terms "beethoven moonlight 3rd". And, after reading through the thread, I thought I would add my own comment.
First of all, my musical background: I am a completely self-taught musician; almost 54-years-old, but have tinkered on the piano for probably about 35 years or so, without (until very lately) making a concerted effort to really
play well. That said, I have steadily acquired a fairly good knowledge of music theory, and have been composing my own works for many years.
As for Beethoven's so-called "Moonlight Sonata" (a name given to the piece not by Beethoven, but by someone else writing about the piece many years after Beethoven's death), I have always been familiar with the 1st movement, which probably most people have heard without even knowing its origins. I have recently fallen in love with the entire sonata. Well, that's not entirely true. I really, really like the 1st and 3rd movements. The 2nd movement is ... well, let's just say that I can take it or leave it, and will probably only learn it in the end in order to be able to say I can play the entire piece -- all three movements.
Anyway, I started learning to play the 1st movement the 1st of May of this year. I had it memorized within a week, but it took the better part of the month to get to the point where I felt I was really achieving a decent degree of expression. I am still playing it through at least once or twice a day as I have moved on to the 3rd movement, which I have been working on for about a month now.
Is the 3rd movement difficult/advanced? I would say that, in terms of "learning the notes," it is not super difficult. It takes the basic chords/progressions from the 1st movement and turns them into fast arpeggios, extended scale runs, and lots of octaves. Plus, once you learn it to the "repeat", you've essentially learned over 3/4 of the piece, since that theme (or parts of it) is repeated not just once, but no fewer than seven times during the course of the movement (although there is a key change in the middle of the piece -- everything moves up a 4th).
In any event, I am making good progress, but I can foresee that it will require several more months of work before I will feel that I have truly "mastered" the piece. Why so long? Because, in my opinion, there is a big difference between learning how to just play the notes of this piece and really
learning how to perform it the way it ought
In other words (and I don't intend to disparage any individual with the following comparison), there is, in my judgment, a HUGE difference between learning to play the piece this well:Beethoven Piano Sonata #14 - 3rd Movement - Sample 1
And learning to play the piece this
well:Beethoven Piano Sonata #14 - 3rd Movement - Sample 2
I also noted that someone linked above to Valentina Lisitsa's performance of the piece. I love to watch her play it, and have done so many, many times -- just because I so much enjoy watching the fingers of her left hand dancing on the keys. Even so, in my opinion, she plays the thing too fast. It's impressive, in a way. But it also almost comes across as a parody at times (although not as badly as does Glenn Gould's ridiculous rendition of it).
Anyway, my bottom line conclusion: the 3rd movement can be learned by any truly dedicated pianist. That said, I consider it to be one of those pieces whose performance really separates the "technically accomplished" from the "artist". No doubt that is why it has been in the repertoire of so many of the world's greatest pianists over the course of the 200+ years since Beethoven composed it. It is very
challenging to master it. And, in my opinion, after listening to many dozens of unique performances of it over the course of the past several weeks, very few people ever really have
mastered it, including many very notable concert pianists, living and dead.