In the first movement (Adagio sostenuto) of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata,1 there is a natural sign (♮) followed by a sharp (♯) on F. What does this mean?

1 Piano Sonata No. 14 in C♯ minor “Quasi una fantasia,” Op. 27, No. 2

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    Hello Gayle, welcome to Music Stack Exchange! If it's possible to be more clear, which means including an image of the piece so we can see what you mean. – iiRosie1 Dec 20 '19 at 22:04
  • I don't think the edit is the actual example... – Richard Dec 21 '19 at 19:25
  • @Richard—I'm not sure I see anything else that resembles the question. Do you see something? Which bar? – Der Übermensch Dec 21 '19 at 21:03
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    The score extract does not help. Here is a natural sign before d (required, since due to key signature one would play d sharp instead) before a sharp preceding a e (making that e sharp, on the piano sounding as f), which is also required, since otherwise an it would remain an unchanged e. So what is the question and which F do you refer to? – guidot Dec 21 '19 at 21:57

I don't know the exact instance that you're referencing, but this type of notation basically means two things simultaneously:

  1. The natural sign negates a prior accidental (like a flat or a doublesharp), or just reminds us that that prior accidental (if it was not in the same measure) is no longer in play.

  2. The subsequent sharp then tells us that, after that prior negation, we make sure to play this pitch as an F♯.

In short: just play it as an F♯!

Not all engravers follow this practice, and it's becoming less and less common as we move on through history. But in Beethoven's time, this was a relatively standard practice.

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You mean here? (It really shouldn't have been MY job to find the example!)

enter image description here

Note the Fx (double sharp) in the preceding bar. The ♮♯, though not strictly necessary - accidentals persist only until the next barline - confirms that this ISN'T a double sharp, just the single one from the key signature.

Modern usage would probably be to retain a single cautionary sharp but omit the natural.

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  • Weird how I didn't see that on the score I was referencing. Is this indeed from the 1st movement, and if so, can you let me know which measure? – Der Übermensch Dec 21 '19 at 22:48
  • It's from the movement generally called 'Moonlight'. – Laurence Payne Dec 22 '19 at 0:27
  • @DerÜbermensch It's in bar 35. – AndrewC Apr 10 at 18:29

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