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Classical Music about the Moon

Updated on March 14, 2013
Moonlight on Lake Lucerne in Switzerland
Moonlight on Lake Lucerne in Switzerland | Source

Moonlight Sonata – Beethoven

Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 14 is one of the most famous and recognizable compositions of all time. The sonata was a gift for Giulietta Guicciardi (1782-1856), a student of Beethoven and one of the candidates for his Immortal Beloved.

The music was christened the Moonlight Sonata by the now forgotten poet Ludwig Rellstab (1790-1860). During the 1830s, Rellstab was a respected music critic, and the world was obviously listening when he said that listening to Beethoven’s sonata was like watching the moonlight on Switzerland’s Lake Lucerne.

Clair de Lune – Debussy

Clair de Lune is only a small part of Debussy’s Suite Bergamasque (it is the third movement, to be more exact) and is the only part of the composition that is now regularly performed. Clair de Lune was inspired by a poem written by Paul Verlaine.

The poem is about a carnival-like landscape where the revelers realize that, despite their apparent joy, they live in vain; and the moon is described as creating a melancholy atmosphere with the light reflecting off the stones and the fountain.

Romanze from “Rosamunde” – Schubert

In 1823, Franz Schubert composed incidental music for a play by Helmina von Chézy titled Rosamunde, Princess of Cyprus. The play was a total flop and all copies of it have completely disappeared from the earth. Schubert’s music, however, survived.

Rosamunde is Schubert’s Opus 26. It consists of ten parts, not counting the overture. Number 4 is a haunting Romanze for the soprano voice. This song makes moonlight and the narrator’s lover seem inseparable.

The full moon shines on the tops of the mountains – How I have been missing you! My sweetheart, how wonderful it is when true lovers kiss!

What beauty does May-time hold? You are the light of my spring! You light my night, oh, smile at me in death again!

She stood within the moonlight and looked towards heaven: “In a distant life, in death I will be yours.” and quietly two hearts broke

- Free verse translation by LastRoseofSummer2

Vaga Luna – Bellini

Bellini’s Vaga Luna is the most famous part of a song cycle called Composizioni di Camera. The text for this arietta is from an anonymous Italian poem. This is arguably one of the most beautiful songs of all time.

O Moon, the silver you cast upon the riverbanks and the flowers inspires the language of love in all these elements. You and you alone are the witness of my fervent desire, and of she whom I love, for whom my heart beats, for whom I sigh.

Tell her that the distance between us cannot possibly soothe my sorrow, and that I have only one hope: She is my only future. Tell her that, during the day and in the evening, I count the hours of sorrow; and that only one hope sustains me and gives me comfort in love.

- Free verse translation by LastRoseofSummer2

Vaga Luna Che Inargenti
Vaga Luna Che Inargenti
MP3 file - Cecilia Bartoli
Růžena Maturová, the first woman to sing Dvorak's Rusalka
Růžena Maturová, the first woman to sing Dvorak's Rusalka | Source

Song to the Moon from “Rusalka” – Dvorak

The opera Rusalka is a Little Mermaid type story. It has never been performed half so often as it deserves. However, the Act I aria Měsíčku na nebi hlubokém – known in English as the Song to the Moon – has always been a popular soprano solo.

Like Vaga Luna, this song is about a lonely lover asking the moon for comfort and to carry a message to the far-off object of the singer’s affection. This song was briefly used in Driving Miss Daisy.


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