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Beethoven"s Moonlight Sonata is among the many iconic piece of Western classical music. The arpeggiated, fantasy-like start of the an initial movement in certain has made its means into the collective cultural musical knowledge. But what need to you know around the Moonlight Sonata? review on to uncover out!

feature image: Under the Moonlight/used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Beethoven"s Moonlight Sonata: The an easy Facts

First, just take a listen. You deserve to start this video clip and keep scrolling down to review as you hear the music.

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Formal Titles: Sonata quasi una Fantasia, Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 27 No. 2

Nickname: the "Moonlight" Sonata

Composer: Ludwig valve Beethoven (1770-1827)

Date composed: 1800-1801; published in 1802, specialized to his pupil Countess Giulietta Guicciardi

Original instrumentation: solo piano

Full item length: 14-15" lengthy (depending ~ above the tempi the show takes), 3 movements (I. Adagio sostenuto II. Allegretto III. Presto agitato)

First movement (the recognizable one) length: about 5"20"-6" long

Moonlight Sonata sheet Music

Because the Moonlight Sonata piano sheet music was very first published in 1802 (and globally published, at that), the piano score is in the general public domain. This method that it"s feasible to get free and legal versions the the item online and print it the end for yourself.

The cleanest (free, publicly domain) variation of the Moonlight Sonata piano score is this 4 MB, high quality scanned version of the Peters score; it has actually high resolution photos that can be printed onto different sized paper without issue and includes piano fingering suggestions. If document size is an worry for friend (for instance, if you have actually slow download speeds or a computer/device that can"t take care of high resolution PDFs), however, I"d recommend the smaller (1.69 MB) Breitkopf & Härtel score.

If you"re curious, girlfriend can additionally take a look in ~ the original handwritten manuscript sketches for the piece, which start at measure up 14, or around 50-55 secs in (depending ~ above how quick you pat it). Friend can also always browse IMSLP.org because that other free scores if no one of this versions takes your fancy.

There are numerous videos the end there that sync the score through a record of the piece, so the you have the right to follow along without having actually a separate copy the the score yourself. The finest one I"ve seen (in terms of good recording + an excellent syncing of the score) is this video, which functions pianist Artur Schnabel"s seminal recording of the Moonlight Sonata:


Jacky Tran/YouTube

A Brief history of Beethoven"s Moonlight Sonata

The Moonlight Sonata was created in 1800-1801, while Beethoven to be living in Vienna. At this suggest in his life, Beethoven had actually not however gone completely deaf, however his hear had begun seriously deteriorating. In fact, the Heiligenstadt testimony (where Beethoven composed of his realization and also grappling v his listening loss and also its permanence) was created the complying with year in 1802.

That Beethoven"s hearing lose had already become obvious makes the apocryphal story around how the Moonlight Sonata gained its surname all the an ext poignant. An apocryphal story sprung up in the mid-19th century (after Beethoven"s death) about how Beethoven met a remote girl play the piano and also was so relocated by her and the moonlight streaming in the room that he was motivated to sirloin home and write down the piece. There"s also a an in similar way romantic story around how Beethoven was having an affair through the student to who the item was dedicated.

Alas, no of these colorful tales show up to have any factual basis. The nickname "Moonlight Sonata" was no actually provided to the piece by the composer; instead, Russian music writer Wilhelm von Lenz reported that an 1830s German music critic and also romantic poet called (Heinrich Friedrich) Ludwig Rellstab was the first to explain the piece as relating come moonlight. Rellstab is reported to have referred to the sonata as "a watercraft visiting, by moonlight, the primitive landscapes the Vierwaldstättersee in Switzerland." and also Giulietta Guicciardi, the dedicatee of the piece, it s her debunked the rumor that she"d had an affair with Beethoven and the item reminded that of her.

Beethoven self was surprised and not altogether pleased by the piece"s popularity. The story goes the Beethoven when complained come his fellow musician girlfriend Carl Czerny the everyone love the Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor (the Moonlight Sonata), also though Beethoven self felt he"d written better (or in ~ least an ext interesting) pieces:

"Everybody is always talking about the C-sharp minor Sonata! surely I have actually written much better things. Over there is the Sonata in F-sharp major—that is something really different."

Why Is the Moonlight Sonata therefore Popular?

So what is that that has actually made the Moonlight Sonata so popular, from the moment of its an initial performance up with the current day?

Some world attribute the popular of the Moonlight Sonata (and the very first movement in particular) come the certain mood the creates.

Musicologist Joseph Kerman argues that component of its very nice (particularly for the an initial movement) comes from the "half-improvisatory texture, the unified of mood, and especially the mood itself – that romantic mestizia i beg your pardon will have actually overwhelmed all but the stoniest of listeners by the end of the melody"s very first phrase."

While this is a reasonable stance to take, it"s also daunting to understand if the mood listeners sense from the piece originates from the music itself or native the cultural discourse surrounding the Moonlight Sonata.

Of course, component of the very nice one of the piece might come from the fact that it has contrasting textures and harmonies that lend themselves quickly to interpretation. Together Beethoven himself said, the item is quasi una fantasia—like a fantasy.

The nickname "moonlight" and also the imagery that evokes has additionally assisted in maintaining the piece"s popularity transparent the years. While over there is no narrative linked with the Moonlight Sonata, the association of the piece with moonlight top top a lake gives many listeners a firm starting point.

Especially as soon as contrasted to the more abstract piece of the 20th century (and beyond), the Moonlight Sonata manages to hold the line in between avoiding being too explicit (this is what the piece is about, you have to hear this in the piece) and too vague (you"re on her own).

Part of the Moonlight Sonata"s popularity additionally no doubt stems indigenous the association it has with Beethoven"s deafness.

Beethoven has come to be a legend figure, the epitome of the torture artist that is losing the feeling most necessary to his art, and the reality that the Moonlight Sonata was written during Beethoven"s hearing loss speak to countless listeners.

The infinite triplet arpeggios in the bass, paired with the unadorned melody in the middle register the the piano, offers the listener almost the feeling that the appropriate hand that the pianist is crying out against the whims of fate.

For a deeper dive right into the enduring popularity of the Moonlight Sonata, listen to this NPR podcast.

Beethoven"s Moonlight Sonata: Quick and also Dirty Analysis

First off, what provides the Moonlight Sonata a sonata? In the classic music era (normally 1750-1825 or so), a "sonata" meant a multi-movement item for piano solo (like the Moonlight Sonata) or because that piano and also other instruments.

The an initial movement, or section, that these pieces would typically be in sonata form: one opening, expository ar (the exposition), a second section wherein the themes native the an initial are occurred (the development), and a last section wherein there is a go back to the themes the the first section, inflected by several of the harmonic journeying the took place throughout the development (the recapitulation).

In the Moonlight Sonata, the first movement starts in C-sharp minor, journeys come the dominant (G-sharp major), and also returns to the tonic (C-sharp minor), as is common of the sonata form.

The Moonlight Sonata is likewise notable because that the way the characters of the various movements stray from conventional late 18th century/early 19th century classic sonatas.

Rather than having the activities go fast-slow-fast, the Moonlight Sonata instead ramps up over time, starting with a contemplative opening movement, moving on to the lighter yet quicker feel of the 2nd movement, and ending v the turbulent third movement.

The Moonlight Sonata in popular music Culture

Beethoven"s Moonlight Sonata has made an appearance in a range of non-classical piece over the years. Below is simply a sampling that the time the Moonlight Sonata has been sampled in popular music music:

The Moonlight Sonata additionally became part of cartoon background when the was used as the accompaniment for a song in the animated unique "You"re A good Man, Charlie Brown" (later turned into the song "Schroeder" in the Broadway music adaptation).


For a complete list that the Moonlight Sonata"s appearances in non-classical settings, visit this site.

Moonlight Sonata Arrangements

In addition to being sampled by various other artists, the Moonlight Sonata has likewise been arranged for a selection of other different instruments.

Versions the Moonlight Sonata because that piano and orchestra are much more of one augmentation of the original piece, vice versa, some the the various other instrumentations space a little more adventurous (and involve more finagling top top the component of the arranger).

Guitar (Classical/Acoustic and Electric)

Of all the different orchestrations, Moonlight Sonata guitar arrangements tend to be particularly successful because the guitar enables for simple arpeggiation and melody/accompaniment combinations.


Keeping it slow-moving is also vital to mastering the following tip.

#2: keep the valuation Steady

Just since the tempo is slow-moving doesn"t mean that you have the right to meander anywhere the ar with the notes and disregard the written rhythm. Component of the hypnotic lulling impact of the an initial movement is the secure triplets in the base (for the many part) versus a dotted eighth note-sixteenth note (or dotted quaver-semiquaver) rate in the best hand—the farther you stray far from this relationship, the less influence the piece will have on the listener.

#3: A item Is higher Than the sum of the Notes

Getting the exactly notes and also rhythms are an important part of learning any piece, however you shouldn"t take into consideration yourself "finished learning" the item just because you"ve gotten the fundamentals down. Notes space important, however things prefer dynamics (how according to or soft you play) and also articulation space the icing on the Moonlight Sonata cake.

Because it"s composed for the piano, Moonlight Sonata has actually a minimal range that expressiveness (simply since of the constraints of the instrument), yet that doesn"t intended that the expressiveness shouldn"t be there. Subtle distinctions in how difficult you press the keys and how lot you allow the sound degeneration can have actually a vast impact top top the affect the piece has actually on the audience (or the listener, if you"re not performing formally).

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Musical cake, because that Lois/Flickr

The Best means to learn the Moonlight Sonata

It"s possible to discover the Moonlight Sonata by ear, native the sheet music, or making use of a mix of the two. If you currently know just how to read music, then that"s most likely the finest option—learning the Moonlight Sonata from the score will obtain you closest to Beethoven"s will (since playing it by ear necessitates having actually a center man).

As with most pieces, the best method to learn the Moonlight Sonata is to discover it section by section and eventually put it together, fairly than trying come play it v every time friend practice.

If you"re discovering the Moonlight Sonata through ear, learning it a small bit at a time is additionally a an excellent idea. Yes, it will involve listening to the exact same 10 seconds of the piece over and also over again, however once you gain that sample of arpeggiating triplets in the left hand versus non-triplets in the appropriate hand down, the rest of the motion will be easier. If girlfriend know how to play the etc or some various other chordal instrument, you could find knowing the Moonlight Sonata tabs help you find out the details note patterns much better as well.

It"s possible to augment your finding out of the Moonlight Sonata from the score v recordings of the piece (and gain the best of both finding out by ear and also learning by reading music worlds), yet that method has its very own issues.Some performers don"t favor to listen to versions of a item while they"re working on it because they"re fear it"ll impact their interpretation, however the ubiquity of the Moonlight Sonata in society makes it difficult to avoid.

Personally, I shot to protect against listening to other interpretations that pieces as soon as I"m discovering it, yet it deserve to be valuable (if you"re struggling through what the notes sound like) to listen to a MIDI version, prefer this one:


Tricky components of the Moonlight Sonata

What each performer find tricky will adjust to some level from human to person. For instance, the huge distances in between notes in the left-hand chords the the first movement will be more tough for civilization with smaller sized hands, if the arpeggios might be more challenging for civilization with stiffness or arthritis in their fingers.

As far as the Moonlight Sonata notes themselves go, i think the most difficult part (of the an initial movement) occurs throughout the advancement section (mm. 31-39), through the onslaught of out-of-key accidentals (naturals, sharps, and also even some double sharps).

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What shenanigans space these, Beethoven?

Pedaling, or regulating the sustain and decay that the notes, is additionally tricky for this piece. Beethoven notes at the start of the Moonlight Sonata,

"Si deve suonare tutto questo pezzo delicatissimamente e senza sordini" (Translation: The whole piece must be played v the most delicate and also unmuted sound).

This effect no doubt would"ve sounded eerie and beautiful ~ above the pianofortes of 1801, yet the pianos today have actually longer sustains, which method that holding under the sustain pedal because that the entirety of the item will likely just result in a muddy sound. Because that a an ext complete discussion of the different pedaling options commonly provided in the Moonlight Sonata, check out the full guide here.

Ultimately, it"s approximately the performer to translate as she will what feels appropriate (and sound right) to her, just as it"s approximately the listener to decide which Moonlight Sonata performance or recording sounds and feels the finest for them.

What"s Next?

We cite melodies and also harmonies above, yet what exactly is a melody or a harmony? Learn about the differences in between melodies and also harmonies here.

Looking for an ext Beethoven piano music insights? check out our short article on Für Elise.

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Thinking around applying come conservatory? examine out our write-up on the finest music colleges in the us here.