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Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata

Piano Sonata no. 14, c sharp minor - Op. 27 no 2



Evgeny Kissin performs a solo piano recital with works by composers Chopin and Samuel Barber in addition to Beethoven's 'Moonlight Sonata' on stage at The Barbican Centre on March 2, 2012 in London, United Kingdom.

Photo by Amy T. Zielinski/Redferns via Getty Images Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven

The Creation of the Moonlight Sonata
The original title of the sonata is “Quasi una fantasia” (Italian. almost a fantasy). The popular title of Moonlight Sonata actually didn’t come about until several years after Beethoven’s death. In 1836, German music critic, Ludwig Rellstab wrote that the sonata reminded him of the reflected moonlight off Lake Lucerne. Since then, Moonlight Sonata has remained the official unofficial title of the sonata.

Ludwig van Beethoven composed the famous Moonlight Sonata in 1801 and dedicated it to Countess Giulietta Guicciardi, a pupil of Beethoven. Shortly after their first few lessons, the two fell in love. After dedicating the Moonlight Sonata, it is believed that Beethoven proposed to her. Although she was willing to accept Beethoven’s proposal, she was forbidden by one of her parents to ever marry him, and sadly, they never did.

Moonlight Sonata Structure and Notes
The Moonlight Sonata is divided into three separate parts.

  • Movement 1, Adagio sostenuto
    The first movement of the Moonlight Sonata is easily the most well known. The famous mysterious, almost haunting melody is dark and whisper like. The form of the first movement is a sort of “condensed” sonata. In other words, it plays the main melody, develops it, and then plays it again very similar to how it was originally played.
  • Movement 2, Allegreto
    The second movement of the Moonlight Sonata is in the form of a scherzo (a comic composition, usually fast-moving and used in the place of a minuet and trio during Beethoven’s time). The key of the second movement is D flat major, which is unrelated to the overall key of c# minor.
  • Movement 3, Presto agitato
    The third movement is completely different from the previous two movements. Its rapid progressions from note to note are invigorating and powerful. The third movement of the Moonlight Sonata is actually marked piano, but Beethoven’s use of sforzandos and fortissimos make the piece actually sound as if the overall dynamic was fortissimo.

Moonlight Sonata Recommended Recordings

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