Can I play Sonata No. 14 “Moonlight” (first movement) by L. Van Beethoven for ABRSM digital Performance Grade 7 for piano as my own choice?

As per Performance Grades - FAQs:

For the exam candidates choose and perform four pieces/songs, presented as a continuous programme: at least three pieces from our existing syllabus (one from each list) and one piece of the candidate’s own choice. The own-choice piece can be another item from the syllabus at the same grade or from any other published source, as long as the level of difficulty is the same.

So I mean whether it's suitable in terms of similar level of difficulty for that grade.

Does Sonata No. 14 “Moonlight” (first movement) by L. Van Beethoven


1 Answer 1



The first movement of the Moonlight sonata has not been (publicly) graded by ABRSM, but the consensus puts it around grade 6, with grade 7 as a "maybe". I would err on the side of Grade 6, but if played with exceptional musicality, it would likely be acceptable in a grade 7 exam.

I strongly recommend contacting ABRSM (or your local ABRSM coordinator) to ask if that piece is acceptable.


Jane Magrath — whose book The Pianist's Guide to Standard Teaching and Performance Literature uses her own grading system — places the Moonlight sonata as Level 10, but that's the entire sonata, including the far more difficult third movement.

However, comparing her grades on other ABRSM Grade 7 pieces, the Chopin Mazurka Op. 68, no. 2 she places at Level 9. Likewise, Moszkowski's "Calme du soir" (op. 94, no. 2) she places at level 8–9; Mendelssohn's "Song without Words" (Op. 19, no. 1) at level 9; Schumann's "Kind im Einschlummern" (Op. 15, no. 12) at level 9; and Debussy's "The Little Shepherd (Children's Corner, no. 5) at Level 8.

Magrath's grading system is her own and distinct from the ABRSM's system; however, the two bear reasonable consistency with each other. That is, harder pieces get higher grades; easier ones get lower grades; and where there are differences, the tend to be only by one grade level.

On the other hand, in the opinion of The Piano Bubble (What Piano Grade is Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata 1st Movement?), it's a Grade 6 piece.

Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata 1st movement would be approximately grade 6 level if you are only concerned with playing the notes correctly.

However, the author allows that

to do it justice, the technical skill required to play this movement musically makes it diploma standard.

Discussion on the ABRSM forum (Moonlight Sonata By Beethoven (what Grade Level?) also suggests the piece would be Grade 6, or even Grade 5. The thread Beethovens "moonlight" Sonata also suggests Grades 5 or 6.

On Quora, What grade would the Moonlight Sonata 1st and 2nd movement be? suggests Grade 6 or 7; and What piano grade is Moonlight Sonata? places the first movement at Grade 7 or 8.

On PianoWorld, What Grade are these pieces? guesses at Grade 5. PianoForum guesses everything from Grade 5 up to Grade 9.

  • I mean the digital exam which require 4 pieces. For the exam candidates choose and perform four pieces/songs.
    – Aida
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 19:53
  • @Aida My mistake. Thanks for the clarification. I've updated the answer. Please let me know if it's sufficient to your needs.
    – Aaron
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 22:39

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