Moonlight Sonata, Op. 27, No. 2 (1st Movement)

Sheet music for the first movement of the Moonlight Sonata by Ludwig van Beethoven. Original score, Advanced Level. 5 pages.


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Sheet music for the Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 27, No. 2, "Moonlight Sonata" (1st Movement) by Ludwig van Beethoven. 

Beethoven dedicated his Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor to Giulietta Guicciardi, an Austrian countess once suspected of being the composer's "Immortal Beloved." Dating to 1801, the sonata was finished when Beethoven was already coming to terms with his deafness, and is one of several pieces marking a transition to the more subjective, "autobiographical" expression that came to define Romantic-era music. The first movement is famous for its haunting, wavelike triplets, evoking a scene of gentle waves carrying a boat across a lake at night. This prompted the poet Ludwig Rellstab to dub it the “Moonlight Sonata.” Beethoven himself called it a “sonata like a fantasy,” owing to its unusual sequence of tempos for the three movements: adagio–allegretto–presto. This gives the entire sonata the freer character of a fantasia, accelerating the tempo across the movements until we reach the agitation of the finale. 

The first two movements are within reach of intermediate players, but the furious third is a virtuoso piece, transforming the calm arpeggios of the first movement into surging, violent outbursts. The lament and fatalism of the outer movements frame the central allegretto, a stammering minuet in the parallel key of D-flat major. Full of charming syncopations, it provides a respite from the despair of the first movement and the storm to come.  

One of the most beloved piano sonatas in the repertory, the piece imbues the classical structures Beethoven inherited–sonata form, minuet and trio–with his imagination and personal anguish. Provided here is the sheet music for the famous, unforgettable first movement, complete with finger numbers for easy learning. This movement gives excellent practice balancing a melody against a flowing accompaniment on the right hand, while keeping the left hand's deep bass octaves in the background. You'll also use the sustain pedal throughout to facilitate the long legato phrases. Join the pianists and classical music lovers who have enjoyed the ghostly soundscape of this sonata for more than two centuries. 5 pages.

If you're learning this piece, you might also be interested in these other gems by Beethoven:
Für Elise, WoO 59 (Complete)
Piano Sonata No. 5 in C minor, Op. 10, No. 1 (1st Movement)
Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13, "Pathetique" (2nd Movement)
Piano Sonata No. 14 in C# minor, Op. 27 No. 2, "Moonlight" (2nd Movement)
Piano Sonata No. 17 in D minor, Op. 31, No. 2, "The Tempest" (3rd Movement)


Why is the Moonlight Sonata so important?

This sonata is one of the most recognized and frequently played pieces in the classical piano repertoire. It has permeated popular culture, appearing in numerous films, television shows, and other media, often used to evoke a sense of romance, contemplation, or sorrow. Beethoven composed it during a period of great innovation in his work. The piece was groundbreaking for its time, particularly in its departure from the traditional sonata form. The piece opens with a slow, meditative movement, contrary to the classical tradition of starting with a fast or moderate first movement. This was unusual and set a new precedent in the composition of piano sonatas.

What are the technical difficulties of the first movement?

The most obvious challenge of the first movement is to handle both melody and accompaniment on the right hand. The melody is played mostly with the 4th and 5th fingers, while the other fingers take the arpeggios of the accompaniment. This means that the weaker fingers routinely have to play louder than the strong ones, in order to project the melody above the accompaniment. It takes some practice and careful listening, so that the melody does not get submerged beneath the waves of arpeggios.

In addition, students' hands should be able to comfortably span an octave, since the melody notes typically fall an octave above the first note of each arpeggio.

Finally, because of the seriousness of the piece, it's important to approach it with patience and practice regularly to capture its full beauty and emotional depth.


Beethoven Moonlight Sonata (1st Movement) Audio Sample