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Ludwig van Beethoven, Sonate für Klavier "Sonata quasi una Fantasia" (cis-Moll) op. 27,2, Autograph

Beethoven-Haus Bonn, BH 60

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Moonlight quasi una Fantasia

The autograph score for the "Moonlight Sonata" (Mondschein-Sonate) is almost complete. Unfortunately the first and last page are gone, meaning the original title and the first 13 bars of the first and the last three of the final movement are missing. We do not known Beethoven's title for the composition. One thing is, however, clear: he did not call the composition the "Moonlight Sonata". He gave the first print run the title "Sonata quasi una Fantasia", indicating that he was breaking away from classical sonata form and that the sonata was composed in the manner of a fantasia. It was its improvisational character which led the Romantics to explore different interpretations. Many believed that Beethoven had translated his unrequited love for Julie Guicciardi (to whom the sonata is dedicated) into music. In 1852 Wilhelm von Lenz interpreted the first movement as an epitaph for Napoleon. The title "Moonlight Sonata", which of all the many interpretations was the one which took root, was coined by the poet Ludwig Rellstab. He had a romantic picture in mind; a barque gliding across the Vierwaldstätt lake through wild countryside in the moonlight. (J.R.)

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