7.7 Musical forms

 

Category: Elementary music theory | Tags: Musical forms

The term musical form (or musical architecture) refers to the overall structure or plan of a piece of music, and it describes the layout of a composition as divided into sections. In this chapter you will learn about the sonata, sonatina and sonata form.

1. Sonata

 

sonata musical composition that consists of three or four contrasting movements.

 

Sonata ("to sound"), in music, literally means a piece played as opposed to a cantata (Latin and Italian cantare, "to sing"), a piece sung. The term evolved through the history of music, designating a variety of forms until the Classical era, when it took on increasing importance. By the early 19th century, it came to represent a principle of composing large-scale works. It was applied to most instrumental genres and regarded—alongside the fugue—as one of two fundamental methods of organizing, interpreting and analyzing concert music. The term sonata is also applied to the series of over 500 works for harpsichord solo, or sometimes for other keyboard instruments, by Domenico Scarlatti, originally published under the name Essercizi per il gravicembalo (Exercises for the Harpsichord).

Initially the most common layout of movements was:

  1. Allegro, which at the time was understood to mean not only a tempo, but also some degree of "working out", or development, of the theme.
  2. A middle movement, most frequently a slow movement: an Andante, an Adagio or a Largo; or less frequently a Minuet or Theme and Variations form.
  3. A closing movement was generally an Allegro or a Presto, often labeled Finale. The form was often a Rondo or Minuet.

But increasingly instrumental works were laid out in four, not three movements, a practice seen first in string quartets and symphonies, and reaching the sonata proper in the early sonatas of Beethoven. Thus, the four-movement layout was by this point standard for the string quartet, and overwhelmingly the most common for the symphony. The usual order of the four movements was:

  1. An allegro, which by this point was in what is called sonata form, complete with exposition, development, and recapitulation.
  2. A slow movement, an Andante, an Adagio or a Largo.
  3. A dance movement, frequently Minuet and trio or—especially later in the classical period—a Scherzo and trio.
  4. A finale in faster tempo, often in a sonata–rondo form.

(Wikipedia)

The most important composers who contributed to the development of the sonata are Scarlatti (Sonata K 141 in d minor), Haydn (Sonate Hob.XVI:34 in e minor), Mozart (Sonate no.11 in A major KV 331) and especially Beethoven (32 piano sonatas).

2. Sonatina

 

sonatina a short sonata.

 

A sonatina is a small sonata. As a musical term, sonatina has no single strict definition; it is rather a title applied by the composer to a piece that is in basic sonata form, but is shorter and lighter in character, or technically more elementary, than a typical sonata. (Wikipedia)

Examples of sonatinas are M. Clementi's sonatinas and Ravel's Sonatina.

3. Sonata form

 

sonata form musical form, consists of three parts: exposition, development and recapitulation.

 

Sonata form (also sonata-allegro form or first movement form) is a musical structure consisting of three main sections: an exposition, a development, and a recapitulation. It has been used widely since the middle of the 18th century (the early Classical period). While it is typically used in the first movement of multi-movement pieces, it is sometimes used in subsequent movements as well—particularly the final movement. After its establishment, the sonata form became the most common form in the first movement of works entitled "sonata", as well as other long works of classical music, including the symphony, concerto, string quartet, and so on. Accordingly, there is a large body of theory on what unifies and distinguishes practice in the sonata form, both within and between eras. Even works that do not adhere to the standard description of a sonata form often present analogous structures or can be analyzed as elaborations or expansions of the standard description of sonata form. (Wikipedia)

The sonata form is quite complex and requires study in itself. An example of the sonata form is Beethoven's Mondschein sonata 3rd movement.