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Moonlight Sonata tempo
#1406503 03/29/10 05:40 PM
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Hi everyone, I have been reading this forum for a while but not contributing to it. I have found some of the posts on here very useful indeed.

I'm currently learning Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata 1st movement and I'm wondering if anyone has any idea what the tempo should be? I'm trying to set a metronome and my sheet music gives no indication at all. Having listened to a few well known pianists playing on CD, they all seem to have different ideas. Any thoughts?


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Re: Moonlight Sonata tempo
PhilzPiano #1406585 03/29/10 07:34 PM
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I think it is pretty slow, but you should pick a tempo that you like. I often wind up bringing my metronome to my computer, clicking on a YouTube video, and figuring out the metronome setting I like that way.

The real key to the tempo for this piece (actually, probably true for all pieces) is to set it for the most difficult measure for you. Because the piece has such a steady rhythm to it, it's especially important not to slow down when you get to the tricky measures in the second half. So I would figure out how fast I can play those, and make sure I don't start any faster than that. That's painful in this piece because it starts out so easy! I love this piece; you've made me want to go pull it out.

Welcome to the forum. What else are you working on?

Nancy


Estonia 168
Re: Moonlight Sonata tempo
NancyM333 #1406679 03/29/10 09:36 PM
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Adagio is usually 60-80 on the metronome. But as Nancy says, listen to many recordings and decide which you prefer.

That said, in my opinion, many people play the Moonlight sonata much too fast, and it is kind of easy to fall into playing it at too fast a tempo.


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Re: Moonlight Sonata tempo
CMohr #1406722 03/29/10 10:52 PM
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I think anywhere from 5:30 to 7:00 minutes is acceptable. Slow or fast or in-between, up to the performer, just have to find one that suits your taste or mood. I've heard famous concert pianists play it both ways (and still sound great) so I don't think anyone can legitimately say you're playing it wrong if you just prefer it at one speed or another. That said, if you were to go faster than 5:30 or slower than 7:00 I'd consider it a little excessive, but that's just my opinion. Whatever tempo you choose though, the key is to try and keep it fairly consistent throughout.

Just some examples from the pros:
Wilhelm Kempff - Moonlight Sonata Mov. 1 in about 5:40
Claudio Arrau - Moonlight Sonata Mov. 1 in about 6:50

So you see, it sounds different but still good at both tempos. Just depends on what you're in the mood for. smile

Re: Moonlight Sonata tempo
AnotherSchmoe #1406740 03/29/10 11:15 PM
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This is always a question with a wide range of opinion. IMHO, even the Kempff tempo is a bit too slow. Keep in mind that Beethoven wrote this as alla breve (2/2), though you'd have to play it pretty fast to get much feeling of two beats per measure. Nevertheless, I guess I like it a little closer to alla breve than most.


Paul Buchanan
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Re: Moonlight Sonata tempo
packa #1406867 03/30/10 04:37 AM
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Thanks for the replies everyone. The answers confirmed my feelings that there is no absolute correct speed for this piece. As I don't have a piano teacher I have been using Alfred Brendel as my 'personal tutor'! He plays the piece in about 6 minutes, which feels about right.

In answer to Nancy's question I'm also working on Bach's Prelude No. 1 in C major and Chopin's Prelude No. 4 in E minor. My dream is to play the 3rd movement of Moonlight Sonata, but somehow I think I'm many years away from that! I'm also working on scales and piano theory in general with a lot of help from the internet.


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Re: Moonlight Sonata tempo
PhilzPiano #1406981 03/30/10 10:20 AM
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Good timing. I was only listening to these podcasts yesterday.

There's an overview on the sonatas here. (Thanks to whoever posted them before)

http://music.guardian.co.uk/classical/page/0,,1943867,00.html

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http://download.guardian.co.uk/sys-audio/Arts/Culture/2006/11/22/03_14CSharpMin.mp3

He plays it quite fast and explains why. Food for thought on this one. It'd still go with the slower version If I had to perform it.

If the file doesn't work (IP blocked) I'll upload it.

Re: Moonlight Sonata tempo
Devane #1407252 03/30/10 04:07 PM
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I'm more in the Schiff camp on this one which puts me in the minority I think, although his tempo is a little too extreme even for me.I play it at about 60 bpm which would bring it in at about 4 mins 45 secs, whereas Schiff's recording is 4.25.Six minutes seems to be a more normal length.

Re: Moonlight Sonata tempo
timmyab #1407394 03/30/10 07:22 PM
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Thanks for the links Devane - really brilliant. Will keep me quiet for hours!


Kawai CA67
Re: Moonlight Sonata tempo
PhilzPiano #1407405 03/30/10 07:39 PM
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A song book I have sets the tempo at 54.

Re: Moonlight Sonata tempo
namethief #1407593 03/31/10 04:51 AM
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The speed is not so important: it can work, clearly, at radically different speeds - this is up to the taste of the player. It is more important that the RH triplets do not plod (if the tempo is very slow) or pound (if the tempo is relatively fast). For this to be avoided the first note of each triplet should be slightly accented and the rest of the triplet to 'lift', i.e. the ryhthm should be slightly sprung. The difference is slight - like all great music, there are no easy pieces - but evenly played quavers kill this movement. The tempo of course has to be fast enough for the top line to be coherent, rather than a series of unconnected notes. The movement is more difficult the slower you play it, from a musical point of view.

Re: Moonlight Sonata tempo
PhilzPiano #1407601 03/31/10 05:26 AM
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It's a slow piece. I like the way Kempff does it.

Re: Moonlight Sonata tempo
PhilzPiano #1846346 02/16/12 08:13 PM
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I listened to a Horowitz recording made in the 60s (A Reminiscence • Sony Classical) and he played Moonlight around 50 BPM, but sometimes gets up to 53-55 BPM. To me, the piece seems rushed if you play it above 55, but I agree with some of you, once you find the tempo you like, turn the metronome off so the piece sounds more fluidic, and alive.


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Re: Moonlight Sonata tempo
PhilzPiano #1846469 02/17/12 12:12 AM
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Its funny that today of all days that I find this post; as I am also learning the 1st movement of Moonlight Sonata and Chopin's Prelude No. 4. I was just trying to iron out some issues with measures 12- 16 of "Moonlight", with moderate success, though measure 13 is still a trouble spot for me. I play it slow around 50 bpm; I always think of the tempo of my horse's canter, which to me seems like an good tempo for the piece.

How do you play the non-staccato left hand in Chopin's Prelude, the right hand is coming along quite well, but acheving that consistent tempo in the left hand is still eluding me.


Re: Moonlight Sonata tempo
IreneAdler #1846484 02/17/12 12:23 AM
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Originally Posted by IreneAdler

How do you play the non-staccato left hand in Chopin's Prelude, the right hand is coming along quite well, but acheving that consistent tempo in the left hand is still eluding me.


I just spent a year(!) on the E minor prelude. It wasn't the tempo of the chords, but the dynamics that eluded me for so long.

My teacher believes in rubato for the left hand chords. Most seem to play it that way. Though, I believe I read somewhere Chopin said rubato was for the melody not the accompaniment?

Last edited by Plowboy; 02/17/12 12:23 AM.

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