Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Ludwig Van Beethoven: The Moonlight Sonata

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | July 18, 2010 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: Beethoven, Jillian T. Weiss, Moonlight Sonata

I recently performed Beethoven's Sonata No. 14, the "Moonlight" Sonata, at an open mic held by the Trans Empowerment Coalition of my synagogue, Congregation Beth Simchat Torah. moonlight-sonata-lg.jpg

At Bil's suggestion, I'm sharing a video.

I grew up playing the piano very seriously since I was six years old. I spent hours a day practicing while growing up. My teacher used to yell at me; "ferme la bouche! ferme la bouche!" She was French, and she was telling me to close my mouth, because I used to get so into the music while performing that my mouth would unconsciously fall open, and I would occasionally start to drool. Not a pretty picture.

It's now over forty years later, and my skills are much diminished, but I have been lately spending some time at the keyboard.

He wrote it in 1801 when he was 31 years old, in his "early period." He was already beginning to suffer from the effects of tinnitus, which cut short his performing, but not his composing. The work was very popular in Beethoven's day, to the point of exasperating the composer himself, who remarked to Carl Czerny, "Surely I've written better things."

There are rumors that Beethoven was gay, that he was in love with his nephew, and there was some sort of incident where the boy tried to shoot himself. Beethoven's notebooks were all destroyed after his death, and there is speculation that they contained information about the affair.

Video after the jump.

Unfortunately, the videographer at the performance forgot to mike the piano, so that video didn't come out well. So I sat down yesterday and pounded it out in my boiling hot apartment. Here is the first movement and a truncated version of the third movement.


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Elizabeth Olsen | July 18, 2010 3:08 PM

Brava! Brava! What a lovely diversion from my homework. Thanks much for the beautiful music. Now...back to schoolwork.

To me, the opening of this is one of the most haunting pieces of music I know...

You played it so beautifully, and I am sure that internet video doesnt do it justice! :)

*stands up and applauds*

I've wanted you to share this beautiful personal side of you that I'm lucky enough to know with other Projectors for so long! I'm so happy you did this!

I'd never heard/seen Jill play, but was dying to be at her performance. Thanks so much for sharing it with me and everyone else, Jill. It was beautiful. Simply beautiful.

Your piano skills match your writing skills! Kudos! :)

VĂ©ronique | July 18, 2010 3:45 PM

One of my favourite pieces of music EVAR! Thank you, Jillian, for your brief rendition. Sounds wonderful!

Wonderful, I love this piece and I use it extensively with my students. It was the last piece that my father played before he gave up piano as an adult.
And the open mouth thing, yes I've had a couple of students who do that and end up drooling from time to time.

Wonderful, I love this piece and I use it extensively with my students. It was the last piece that my father played before he gave up piano as an adult.
And the open mouth thing, yes I've had a couple of students who do that and end up drooling from time to time.

One of my favorite pieces to play. :) quite wonderful!

A. J. Lopp | July 19, 2010 2:43 PM

You play beautifully, Jill! Please keep up with it!

I studied piano, off and on, off and on, during my young years. I can attempt to play the Moonlight Sonata first movement --- but the excerpt from the third movement that you play, Jill, is far more difficult than anything I could hope to master.

You are an inspiration to me ... next time I attempt the Sonata, I will aspire to play it the same way you do. It is a piece that must be played with feeling, but is subject to melodrama if overdone. You hit a beautiful balance on this aspect, Jill.

P.S. While listening, I found myself thinking: Studies indicate that children who are taught music early, later show better math skills. I realized this has a possible and easy explanation: when very young students learn the basics of sight-reading music, and specifically rhythm, they must do math in their head: some notes are twice the length of others, some are four times as long, etc. And specifically, they must do the math in their head, and quickly. So it is easy for me to speculate about how this gets the "math center" in the brain exercising at a very early age, an age when children normally don't do that intensity of math in any other of their life activities.

We think of music and math as unrelated subjects --- but in truth, music, and especially western music, cannot exist without its mathematical underpinnings. (We also see this in physics, when we study sound frequencies, for example what makes an octave --- but I won't go into that here.)

Thank you so much, Jill, for putting up this video!

Stonewall Girl Stonewall Girl | July 20, 2010 12:01 AM

Jill, Brava!

A side of you I didn't know. An excellent choice, well played. The Moonlight Sonata is a hauntingly beautiful and emotional work of music.

thank you