The first movement (Adagio sostenuto) of the Piano Sonata No. 14 in C Sharp Major, Opus 27, No. 2 (“Moonlight Sonata”) by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), is a very well-known piece of solo piano music. Some might even say it’s overplayed. Not me.
Beethoven wrote the sonata in 1801 and dedicated it to a student of his. Years later, the influential German poet and music critic Ludwig Rellstab (1799-1860) remarked on the similarity between the piece and the effect of moonlight shimmering on a lake and, well, the name stuck.
One of my most memorable experiences of the Moonlight Sonata is from my early 20s: Friends and I travelled to British Columbia, Canada, for a skiing holiday in February 1983. (BC has always been a favourite destination of mine, and for my sweety and me, too, as I mention in my post on Spoons’ “Trade Winds.”) After flying to Vancouver, my friends and I stayed at the home of one of the gang’s parents in Tsawwassen, en route to Whistler/Blackcomb. This couple was so welcoming, kind and generous, making food for us to take up to our Whistler condo, lending us a car and, of course, putting us up at theirs.
When that same couple returned to visit Winnipeg, Manitoba, our group of friends hosted them for dinner. In addition to whatever part of the meal I contributed, I made a mixtape of classical music to create a warm, inviting ambiance. The Adagio from the Moonlight Sonata was one of the most popular pieces that evening.
As I returned to the Deutsche Grammophon YouTube channel for inspiration today, I was excited to find a “rethinking” of this piece of music and quickly decided this would be today’s selection. It’s an arrangement by Deutsche Grammophon’s Christian Badzura for solo violin, played by Norwegian violinist Mari Samuelsen, accompanied by an uncredited string orchestra and piano.
Deutsche Grammophon features Samuelsen’s comments in the notes section from the video post for “Moonlight”: “When listening to the ‘Moonlight Sonata’,” she explains, “I feel my soul getting detoxified. It’s like an internal cleansing of my emotional and mental system, a dream or a fantasy where you’re invited into a different world for some five minutes. I think it’s impossible to define if it’s dark or light. It gives me a feeling of hope and enlightenment, and of reflection and consciousness.”
Samuelsen is a talented artist who appears quite passionate about her playing. She performs on a number of alternate arrangements of classical pieces, as well as adaptations from other genres, like the Brian Eno/Hans-Joachim Roedelius/Dieter Moebius composition, “By This River.” That piece, by the way, is another arrangement for Samuelsen by Badzura. (If you haven’t yet seen my post on it, please check it out… it’s another marvellous song.)
Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.
Here’s the video for the song from the official Deutsche Grammophon YouTube channel: