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Home>Beethoven Music>Beethoven Piano Sonatas>The Moonlight Sonata

Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata

The Moonlight Sonata was composed in the summer of 1801 in Hungary, on an estate belonging to the Brunswick family. The composition was published in 1802 and was dedicated to Beethoven’s pupil and passion, 17 years old Countess Giulietta Gucciardi.
       The Sonata is one of the most popular piano sonatas from Beethoven’s creation. It is also named “The Moonlight Sonata” by poet Ludwig Rellstab who, in 1832, had this inspiration on a moon lit night on the banks of the Lucerna River. Some biographers make the connection between the unshared love the composer held for Giulietta Guicciardi and the sonorities of the first part. Even more so, this sonata was dedicated to Giulietta, the musical theme of the first part being borrowed from a German ballad as Wyzewa observed.
       According to Fischer, this image has no connection with Beethoven’s intentions. He rather attributes this atmosphere to the feeling that overwhelmed the composer when he took watch at the side of a friend who prematurely left the world of the living. In one of Beethoven’s manuscripts there are several notes from Mozart’s Don Juan, notes that follow the killing of the Commander by Don Juan, and lower, this passage is rendered in C sharp minor in absolute resemblance to the first part of the sonata in C sharp minor. Analyzing and comparing, one could realize that it cannot be the case of a romantic moon lit night, but rather of a solemn funeral hymn.

The piano sonata has three parts:

  1. Adagio Sostenuto
  2. Allegretto
  3. Presto Agitato

The parts of the sonata give the impression of a whole first of all through the elaboration of themes and motifs. Consequently, the main musical theme of the first part becomes very elaborate in the second part, and the second motif of the main theme will be encountered in the first theme of part III.

Part I – Adagio Sostenuto- is based on an accompanying motif in triplet rhythm that, together with a accented notes motif, creates the impression of a grave, meditative state of mind. The composer adds the following direction at the beginning of the first part: „ Si deve suonare tutto pezzo delicatissimamente e senza sordino” which means that the performer should play the part with great delicacy and without dampers. It is also true that the modern piano has a much longer sustain time than the instruments of Beethoven's day. Therefore, his instruction cannot be followed by pianists playing modern instruments without creating an unpleasantly dissonant sound.(Wikipedia, The Moonlight Sonata Page)

Excerpt from Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, Part I

The second part- Allegretto- is very small in size which leads to the idea that it was conceived more as a connection between the first and third part, rather than a part all by itself. The feeling is now denser in consistency, and the fairly meditative character of the first part gradually fades away, preparing the tumult of the third part.

Excerpt from Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, Part II

The third part – Presto Agitato- is twice as long as the first two parts. Fischer felt this part as being the representation of a storm. A very impetuous storm, if we take into account the fact that at the time when he was composing the sonata, Beethoven was madly in love with Giulietta with whom he had hopes of getting married. The listener can distinguish two themes in this part: a tempestuous one built on arpeggios and strongly accented notes and a second theme, more lyrical in form which comes into contrast with the first one. Both themes are magnificently interlaced and create the impetuous storm emotion Fischer experienced.

Excerpt from Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, Part III, first motif
Excerpt from Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, Part III, first motif

This is one of the most well known piano sonatas by Beethoven. The Moonlight Sonata was written in 1801 and today, more than ever, it remaines one of the most popular pieces of piano music in history.

Download the complete Moonlight Sonata music sheet from here.

Download Part I of the Moonlight Sonata

Download Part II of the Moonlight Sonata

Download Part III of the Moonlight Sonata

Other pages on Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata.

Read more about Beethoven's Piano sonatas :

  1. Sonata in F minor, op. 2, no. 1
  2. Sonata in A major, op. 2, no. 2
  3. Sonata in C major op. 2, no. 3
  4. Sonata in E flat major, op. 7
  5. Sonata in C minor, op. 10, no.1
  6. Sonata in C minor, op. 13, “Pathetique”
  7. Sonata in A major, op. 10, no. 2
  8. Sonata in D major, op. 10, no. 3
  9. Sonata in G major, op. 14, no. 2
  10. Sonata in B flat major, op. 22
  11. Sonata in E flat major, op. 26
  12. Sonata in E major, op. 14 no. 1
  13. Sonata in E flat major, op. 27, nr. 1
  14. Sonata in C sharp minor, op. 27, nr. 2 “The Moonlight Sonata”
  15. Sonata in D major, op. 28 “Pastorala”
  16. Sonata in G major, op. 31, no. 1
  1. Sonata in D minor, op. 31, no. 2
  2. Sonata in E flat major, op. 31, no. 3
  3. Sonata in G minor, op.49, no. 1
  4. Sonata in G major, op. 49, no. 2
  5. Sonata in C major,No. 21 op. 53 “Waldstein”
  6. Sonata in F major, op.54
  7. Sonata in F minor, op. 57, “Appassionata”
  8. Sonata in F sharp major, op. 78
  9. Sonata in G major, op. 79
  10. Sonata in E flat major, op. 81 a
  11. Sonata in E minor, op. 90
  12. Sonata in A major, op. 101
  13. Sonata in B flat major, op. 106, “Hammerklavier”
  14. Sonata in E major, op. 109
  15. Sonata in A flat major, op. 110
  16. Sonata in C minor, op. 111


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  Best 5 Beethoven Books on Amazon

1. Beethoven: The Universal Composer by Edmund Morris;

2. Beethoven by Maynard Solomon;

3. Beetoven: The Music and the Life by Lewis Lockwood;

4. Late Beethoven: Music, Thought, Imagination by Maynard Solomon;

5. Beethoven as I Knew Him by Anton Felix Schindler;

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