A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Moonlight Sonata

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MOONLIGHT SONATA. An absurd title which for years has been attached both in Germany and England to the Sonata quasi una fantasia in C♯ minor, the second of the two which form together Beethoven's op. 27. It is dedicated to the 'Damigella Contessa Giulietta Guicciardi.' The title is said to have been derived from an expression of Rellstab the critic [1]comparing the first movement to a boat wandering by moonlight on the Lake of Lucerne. In Vienna it is sometimes known as the [2]Laubensonate, from a tradition that the first movement was composed in the leafy-alley (Laubengang) of a garden.

Op. 27 was published—'for the harpsichord or pianoforte'—in March 1802. Its dedication, on which so much gratuitous romance has been built, appears from the statement of the countess herself to have been a mere accident. [See vol. i. 181a.] Beethoven, perhaps in joke, laughed at its popularity, and professed to prefer the Sonata in F♯ minor (op. 78). [See vol. i. 188a.]

  1. Lenz, Beethoven et ses trois styles, i. 225.
  2. Lenz, B. eine Kunststudie, Pt. 2, 79.