In Moonlight

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In Moonlight song by Elgar cover 1902.jpg

"In Moonlight" is a song with music written by the English composer Edward Elgar in 1904 to words from the poem "An Ariette for Music. To a Lady singing to her Accompaniment on the Guitar", by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) and published in 1832.

The song is adapted to a central section of Elgar's concert-overture "In the South (Alassio)" where the "Canto Popolare"[1] melody is introduced by a solo viola with a delicate and imaginative accompaniment, which could be likened to Shelley's "...accompaniment on the Guitar."

The first performance of "In the South" was in March 1904. In July that year Elgar made different versions of the "Canto Popolare" section. These were variously for small orchestra, for piano and for various instrumental combinations.

In August 1905 the song was reviewed in the London "Times":

"Sir Edward Elgar is paying one of the penalties of popularity, and the adaptation of a theme from his overture "In the South" to Shelley's words beginning "As the moon's soft splendour" will very likely attain the success which the publishers, Messrs. Novello & Co., appear to anticipate, as they issue it in several keys. The words, as might be expected, have to suffer a good deal of rhythmic modification in order to fit the "canto popolare", but this is hardly likely to stand in the way of the song's success".[2]

The same poem was set by many others including the American composer Amy Beach ("Mrs. H. H. A. Beach"), as her Op. 1 No. 4, with the title "Ariette".


Elgar used only the first and third stanzas of Shelley's poem, "An Ariette for Music".





  1. ^ The Italian "canto popolare", literally "popular song", in this context is a "folk tune", and, according to Percy Young (in Elgar, O. M.), a folk-tune invented by Elgar.
  2. ^ The Times, London, 31 August 1905


  • Banfield, Stephen, Sensibility and English Song: Critical studies of the early 20th century (Cambridge University Press, 1985) ISBN 0-521-37944-X
  • Kennedy, Michael, Portrait of Elgar (Oxford University Press, 1968) ISBN 0-19-315414-5
  • Young, Percy M., Elgar O.M. (Collins, 1955)