Beethoven Sonata Op 27, Nr 2 1st Movement, the‘Moonlight’…an analysis

The movement begins in the key of the Sub-Mediant (VI), ‘C-sharp’ minor. In the first four measures there is much in the way of harmonic progressions, chord quality, and counterpoint. The first measure is a ‘C-sharp minor triad. The second measure is a ‘C-sharp’ minor seventh chord with the minor 7th in the bass. The third measure contains a normal sub-mediant triad (VI), ‘A’ major. This is followed by a ‘D’ major triad on the lowered super-tonic in the first inversion (bII) referred to as a ‘Neapolitan-six’ chord. The fourth measure starts with an altered dominant (x).  In a minor key the dominant is normally a minor seventh chord. Here we find a ‘B-sharp’ that is not part of the key signature. ‘B-sharp’ is the raised 7th of the minor scale (harmonic minor), and also the major 3rd of the chord creating a dominant quality on the dominant (V). The third beat is the same altered dominant but with ‘C-sharp’ suspended from the tonic and resolved to thethird.

Measure six contains the altered dominant (V) with the 3rd as the lower-most note that moves to the tonic in a V–I–IV progression.1 Note that in a minor key ‘I’ and ‘IV’ are minor as normal qualities. ‘V’ is normally minor, but usually altered to dominant (x).

Measure 8 takes a modulation to the key of the relative major, the key of the Tonic (I), ‘E’ major with a cancellation of the altered ‘B-sharp’. A modal change from ‘E’ major to ‘E’ minor takes place in measure ten. It does not effect a modulation. It does, however, anticipate the key of ‘C’ major.

1 For a correct performance of the cross rhythms between the triplet eighths and the quadruplet theme beginning on the forth beat of measure five and following, refer to the Appendix at the end of this analysis.

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