Skip to main content

Beethoven Moonlight Sonata Analysis




The Moonlight Sonata is a very famous composition written by Beethoven. "Moonlight Sonata" is not the original name for the piece. It derives from a description of the first movement by critic Ludwig Rellstab, who compared it to moonlight shining upon Lake Lucerne in 1832. Since then, this famed piece has been known as the Moonlight Sonata. Beethoven originally named this piece "Quasi una fanatsia", which basically means "almost a fantasy". I believe there are two reasons for this. First, this song is rumored to be deditcated to his pupil-17 year old Countess Giulietta Guicciardi, with whom Beethoven was in love with. However, the countess was from a wealthy family with high expectations, so it was impossible for Beethoven to be with her. Thus, it was almost a fantasy. Secondly, this sonata does not follow the traditional sonata pattern. In the Moonlight Sonata, Beethoven holds off the climax until the last movement, where he erupts with a passion of ornaments and sforzandos. Beethoven was able to magnify the drama by using this form.


There are three movements: Adagio sostenuto, Allegretto, and Presto agitato.

Adagio sostenuto:

This movement is basically the "moonlight" of the piece. The repeating rhythms and notes make it appear as if you were taking a walk under the moonlight. There are some parts that lead up to more... exciting measures, but make sure that you don't overdo it. This is a moonlight setting, not a war.


This movement is only one page; very short. It's basically a bridge connecting the first and third movement together. The first sentence, which is a recurring one, is like a flower blooming, then going back to a bud again. A cycle.

This whole movement is like a valley connecting two mountains, the first and third movement. The separate sentences are like the flowers in the valley.

Presto agitato:

This movement is a fierce, warlike piece. You can say that the first movement is when a lover is telling him about something nice and conforting, such as a stroll in the moonlight (haha) and the second movement as a nice bridge between pieces. The third movement is when, say, she would "dump" him, perhaps for another. This would be a piece of anger, of a torn heart. Must play diligently and quickly, with no messy notes.

Customer Poll

Good Interpretation of First Movement


outofcheese on January 11, 2014:

to runoutofcake, the guy or gal or whoever wrote this analysis did say that he didn't name the piece moonlight sonata, so i guess u literally did runoutofcake cause it isn't nobody' s fault your grumpy asnd don't know how to read what was CLEARLY in front of your eyes

Scroll to Continue

jamila sahar on November 15, 2012:

Interesting hub, there are a lot of details about the 'Moonlight' Sonata. This Sonata was written towards the beginning of his second stylistic period, around the time of his failed treatment for his impending deafness. There are many qualities in the music which represent mourning called 'Traurmusik'.

‘Sonata quasi una fantasia’ is the title Beethoven gave his fourteenth sonata. Unlike the formal Sonata form of the classical period, Fantasia commonly describes a free-form classical musical piece. Marking the beginning of Beethoven’s second stylistic period, opus 27 no. 2 does not follow the traditional sonata form. Beethoven additionally uses traditional musical mourning devices called Trauermusik, in a very untraditional way. Trauermusik consists of Lament Bass, repetitive accompaniment figures, and chant. Other famous examples of chant are Mozart’s Masonic Funeral Music and the Requium. Dotted monotone anacrusis permeate the first movement reminiscent of the tolling of funeral bells, recall the previous piano sonata Opus 26, Marcia sulla morte de’un eroe, which anticipates Chopin’s opus 35 Bb sonata’s famous ‘Marche Funebre’ and later the main theme of Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’ Symphony’s ‘Marcia Funebre’.

This Sonata was written at a transformative period of the composers life, and my observation through analysis as well as the feeling I get through playing the first movement is great sorrow and lament, and this was Beethoven's way of expressing those feelings. One of the main themes of much of his music is 'Victory over Defeat' and his rage is surely felt in the third movement. I believe because of the deafness, which took his composing onto a new path, we have the great masterpieces of his second and third stylistic periods.

ghft on April 25, 2012:

I wouldn't use wikipedia as a source for an argunent. Not evrything on the internet is true.

hale on November 09, 2010:

Cake, I don't disagree with your assessment of this article; however, I should point out that 1) Moonlight was not a name from the publisher, but from the poet Ludwig Rellstab after Beethoven was dead; 2) the Pathetique was not named by Beethoven either, this one was named by his publisher (although Beethoven was alive for this one and did not object). Btw you guys it is so easy to check facts with the internet.

mike on July 05, 2010:

This is one of my favorites.

RunOutofCake on April 23, 2010:

I'm sorry, but this is NOT interesting. It's not even a real analysis! It's speculation about what was going on when Beethoven was writing this piece. FYI, Beethoven did not name this piece "Moonlight Sonata," his publishers did. The only sonata he ever gave a name to was "Sonate Pathetique" which you ought to take a listen to sometime. If you really want to know about Beethoven's love life, look up his letters to his "Immortal Beloved." Educate yourself.

AveMaria4 on April 22, 2010:

This was an intresting article I never new about that this sonata. It does give you more of an ideal about Beethoven's experience while composing this piece. :D

hi on April 12, 2010:


Related Articles