Talk:Sonata form

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I question the use of the word "subject" to describe themes. "Subject" is best reserved for fugue.

In the case of sonata-allegro form, it is better to describe the main ideas as "Main Theme" and "Subordinate Theme" rather than "first subject" and "second subject" as in this article. The problem with the terms used in this article becomes apparent when one needs to label subsidiary theme that are part of a group. For example, the 2nd subordiate theme would, in the terminology of the current article, be described as the "second subject of the second subject group." Accordingly I have switched terms.

Well, "subject" is pretty widely used in the literature, but OK. I don't really like "main theme" and "subordinate theme" because I don't think the terms are very widely used in this context, and also because the suggestion that one theme is "subordinate" to the other is midleading. If you don't like "subject", how about "group"? That's pretty widely used, and (referring to your above example) something like "the second theme in the second group" is pretty clear, I think. --Camembert

"Theme group" is better. It still requires such awkward locutions as "the second theme of the second theme group." How much more elegant is "second subordinate theme?" The use of "principal" (or main) and "subordinate" themes is also widespread in the literature (e.g. Wallace Berry & Leon Stein). If the objection is that "subordinate" implies inferiority to the main theme or subservience to it, the proper interpretation is this: the subordinate theme derives its existence from the main theme. If there were no 1st theme, there would be no 2nd. Therefore, the designation "second theme" is dependent upon there being a first and is therefore subordinate to it. In some instances this subordination involves a literal contrapuntal derivative (as in Beethoven Op. 57 'Appassionata' 1st mvt). In other cases it is a figural or thematic correlation. At the least, the 2nd theme is subordinate if only by virtue of its order (one meaning of "subordinate" as per the OED, although admittedly rare).

I think most of the time, the second theme (or subject, or group or whatever) is "subordinate" only in a temporal sense - some sort of motivic connection is the exception rather than the rule, isn't it? To me, it's putting it rather strongly to call it "subordinate" simply because it arrives later in the piece. My concern is that somebody coming along with no knowledge of sonata form is going to think that the "subordinate theme(s)" is not as important as the "principal theme(s)". I can see your point about it leading to clumsier sentences in some cases, but I think it's more important to avoid any chance of confusion. I will add a note on the "princpal/subordinate" terminology, however, so people are aware of its existence, and so they can decide to use it themselves in articles on individual pieces if they want to (I've not read Berry or Stein on this, by the way - thanks for mentioning them). --Camembert

Romantic music vs ahistorical approach[edit]

It seems to me that a lot of the recent additions to this article aren't about sonata form as such, but rather about Romantic music in general. For example:

As the 19th Century progressed, the complexity of the sonata form grew, as new ways of moving through the harmony of a work were introduced by Brahms and Liszt. Instead of focusing exclusively on harmony which related by the circle of fifths, they used movement along circles based on minor triads or major triads. Liszt, in particular, emphasized the "Diminished 7th" as both a sound and as an organizing force for music.

I don't really see what this has to do with sonata form beyond that it is about Romantic music and, of course, some Romantic movements are in sonata form. The same goes for most of the "Sonata form in the postclassical era" section. Would most of this stuff be better located at Romantic music? --Camembert

Better to simply describe practice and let other people fight out the metaphysics of what a "sonata" movement "really" is. Liszt, Mahler, Brahms, Prokofiev, Sibelius, Hindemith, Milhaud and Debussy all thought of themselves as writing sonata form, or using symphonic structure, their works are so labelled and someone wanting to make sense of them needs to know what they were doing.

Someone looking the subject up might be interested that some music theorists, id est Rosen, believe that a sonata form is exclusively the product of the classical era, but it certainly isn't the only opinion out there. Indeed the very influential theorists Schenker and Schoenberg both thought of the sonata form as being continuously renewed, Schoenberg with his theory of "continuos variation" and Schenker with his ideas on Urlinie. Liszt and Berg scholar Searle is particularly, ah, vehement, in his rejection of the "sonata form is classical only" theory.

What might be useful is to have a better description of baroque and post-baroque sonata forms, which were harmonically more varied than the classical model, while being much more restricted in their schematic, and relative sizes of the sections. See Bocherini, Telemann and the keyboard sonatas of CPE Bach for examples of this era of sonata structure.


I think the section needs a lot of pruning, but I think it is very important to discuss the variety of definitions and treatments of sonata form. Especially since its contentious.Hyacinth 01:01, 10 Jan 2004 (UTC) See: Susan McClary

Suggestion: have a much reduced general history of the word "sonata" and the works it is attached to, and then have separate sections on the different periods of practice, noting where different theorists disagree over various points. Stirling Newberry

Hang on: we shouldn't be discussing the history of the word "sonata" at all - this page is about sonata form. Stuff about sonatas should live at sonata. Let's be clear here: the term "sonata form" does not mean "the structure of a sonata" (ie, four movements, quick-slow-minuet-finale or whatever). It is, as the first part of the article explains, a label attached to a particular way of structuring a single movement which may or may not be a movement in a sonata. I wonder if there's some confusion over this point.
I'm not saying we shouldn't discuss the history of the form and how it has been stretched to breaking point by some composers - of course we must discuss those things. But my point is that most of the "romantic" and "modern" sections of the article aren't discussing that - they're discussing Romantic and 20th century style in general. Anyway, I'll leave this for a few days and see how the article develops. --Camembert

Massive Errors[edit]

"...however, coming as it did after Beethoven's death and long after the heyday of the form as used by composers, it already had a slightly abstract and retrospective character. It still has wide currency and provides the theorist with a range of indispensable analytical terms, therefore before the larger arguments over sonata form can be considered, it demands a summary."

Wow! That was such a stupid (and unfounded and un-researched) statement that I felt incredibly motivated to remove it. Many composers after Beethoven used sonata form. As a matter of fact, a GAZILLION composers in the 19th Century after Beethoven used sonata form. A huge number of 20th Century folks used it and I've been noticing that here in the 21st Century, though it is not as popular as it was in the 19th, composers from time to time really DO use sonata form.

There's other garbage in this article but I'm already beside myself with... I don't know, but I'm beside myself with something!... that I just can't bother to correct anything else in this article. Please, please, please, someone who knows what they're doing... will you please fix this article and deliver it from its current lowly form and exorcise the imbecilic demons that possess it? Gingermint (talk) 04:17, 23 October 2010 (UTC)[reply]

Requires historical approach[edit]

I think a lot of the problem is that it's impossible to produce a clear characterization of sonata form in all eras at once. So I've compartmentalized:

  • labeling the basic description of sonata form as specifically covering the Classical sonata form
  • moving all discussion of Romantic and Modern sonata form to their own sections.

I've also deleted my summary (and Stirling's amplification) of Rosen's view that the Romantic composers were "cooking a dish for which the ingredients were no longer being prepared". Since Rosen's point is controversial, it seems better (at least for now) to approach the Romantics afresh; that is, in their own terms, and not as deficient classicists.

I hope Romantic music experts among us will consider reorganizing and tightening the Romantic and Modern sections--these sections will need help of this kind, given that I imported extra material into them.

Opus33 01:40, 10 Jan 2004 (UTC)

I think Opus 33's solution is the best. Let each era speak for itself as to what it is doing, we can document it and other people can make up their minds. I will reiterate - the 19th century is loaded with composers who thought they were composing sonata forms, or at least trying to, and made changes to music to fit their conception of the idea. Again, it is best to leave to others the metaphysics of what "sonata form" really means, and document what different waves of musicians, critics and composers meant by it as it applied to their music.

That Rosen thinks that Tchaikovski's 6th symphony first movement isn't really a Sonata Allegro form is interesting, but irrelevant to the question of what Tchaikovsky is doing in the work.

Stirling Newberry

Historical performance[edit]

I have removed this paragraph:

Increasingly through the 20th century criticism has focused, not just on works, but on recordings, and hence on different interpretations of the same work by different orchestras and conductors. This has lead to a focus on audible features of a recording, such as taking repeats or not, and on the manner of presentation. One controversial area is the rise of "Historically Informed Performance", which seeks to use scholarship to discover the playing and intepretive styles used to perform works at periods in the past. The hotly debated questions of the feasibility or advisability of this project often overshadow the questions of tempo, dynamics, relative weight of sections of the sonata and "meaning" which are brought to bear in interpretting works and performances.

I don't see as it has anything at all to do with sonata form. Historically informed performance isn't limited to works in sonata form (indeed, many such performances are of works which predate the emergence of sonata form). --Camembert

Thanks, Camembert, for taking this on; I agree with you completely. Opus33 18:10, 23 Jun 2004 (UTC)

Sonata vs Sonata form[edit]

Once again the generic term for a work in sonata form is "sonata". Hence when discussing the sonata form, "sonatas" refers to all works in sonata form, not merely "piano sonatas". Stirling Newberry

Is that really true? Such a general meaning of "sonata" is new to me, and I'd have to say it's non-standard. Can you (or anybody) give an example of a writer using it in this way? In any case, it seems to me misleading at best to call a tone poem (for example) which happens to be in sonata form a "sonata", so I think it's a usage best avoided in the article.
I feel similarly about the use of "sonata form" to mean "the structure of a sonata" (ie, four movements, quick-slow-minuet-quick) - even if some writers do this (do they? if so, who?), it is unusual and potentially misleading: the normal usage of "sonata form" (at least in my experience) is in reference to a single-movement structure. --Camembert
I agree that 'sonata form' is (almost?) universally used to refer to the scheme of a single movement, and not the form of pieces which are multi-movement cycles. Stumps 10:43, 31 May 2006 (UTC)[reply]

When did sonata form come to dominate all movements?[edit]

I've removed this paragraph:

The final quartets of Beethoven also had an effect on the layout of "sonata" works, in that gradually it became more and more common to have all of the movements of a work be in "sonata-allegro" form. While Charles Rosen has argued that, properly understood, this was always the case, in the 19th and early 20th century, it came to mean specifically the use of the academically laid out first movement form.

because the use of sonata form for all movements (except, of course, the minuet/scherzo) was common long before the late quartets of Beethoven. Thus, for example, Haydn's "Philosopher" symphony (ca. 1765), Mozart's 40th Symphony, and Beethoven's Sixth and Eighth Symphonies all use sonata form for every movement except the minuet/scherzo.

The paragraph segues into the "academicization" of sonata form in the 19th century, but this can hardly be from the influence of late Beethoven. Opus33

I've put it back. Stirling Newberry
Hi Sterling,
Looks like the software is giving trouble--I thought I had reverted it myself by accident. Hence the sequence "delete"-"revert"-"delete"-"revert", which gives more of an impression of an edit war than what is actually happening.
This aside, I gave a reason for what I did, and I urge you to do the same. If you really think you are right, it would be appropriate for you to cite examples from the late Beethoven quartets that prove your point. Opus33 17:55, 25 Jun 2004 (UTC)

I'm simply quoting the "received" wisdom on the subject, for example:

"In addition, Beethoven realizes the essence of the most important of classical forms - the sonata form - with strongly differentiated first and second theme groups, highly dramatic development sections and codas that sometimes rival the development in size. The importance of the sonata form can be particularly seen in a work such as the first string quartet of Op.59, where even the slow movement and scherzo are in sonata form."

Allen Krenetz

as well as WS Newman and Tovey.

If you feel that we should revisit this revealed wisdom and make a more careful argument, or that I have phrased the old one poorly, by all means we should make amendations and improvments. Stirling Newberry

Perhaps we have a minor misunderstanding over which quartets of Beethoven were influential in this regard. Op. 59 no. 1 is a "middle period" quartet, and I think Krenetz is right about these being influential. If one single formal idea predominates in the late quartets, I think it is variation, not sonata at all, which comes in third behind fugue as an organizational/developmental principle. (On an aside, I think it could be argued that the scherzo of op. 59 no. 1 is not in sonata form at all--if it is, it is one of the most bizarre I have ever heard!) Maybe we just need to edit out the word "final" from "final quartets." Peace, Antandrus 03:50, 26 Jun 2004 (UTC)

Stirling Newberry I've rewritten the section on "sonatification". I think this version is more NPOV, since it lists this as a theory and who held it, more accurate, since it takes into account the examples from Opus33 and probably better written. I hope people will read and comment on whether this is heading in the right direction.

Just out of curiosity: who is Allen Krenetz? I've never heard of him. Who is WS Newman, for that matter? Ernest Newman I know about, but WS is a new one to me. (Don't worry - I know who Tovey is ;) --Camembert

Stirling Newberry Krenetz is a prof of musicology who specializes in Beethoven. I don't think he is famous particularly.

Hmm... don't know who Krenetz is, but WS Newman must be William Stein Newman, American musicologist (he's in the New Grove). Wrote a three-volume History of the Sonata Idea. Sounds like a Wikipedia article to me.  :-) Antandrus 15:39, 26 Jun 2004 (UTC)

Stirling Newberry I'm feeling old now, WS Newman's three volume work was considered the latest in scholarship when I was learning composition.

Oh heck, he's even in Grove Concise, which I have, and checked, but somehow I missed him... I shall now write a stub on him to atone for my shortsightedness ;) --Camembert
A predecessor of sorts of sonata form, the suite movement (differing in its most advanced state - at least according to C Thorpe-Davie whose musicology, I will readily agree, is probably not only years old but also years out of date too - in one detail, from the simple form of 'sonata form' as later known: the repetition, in the dominant, of the opening bars at the beginning of the second repeated section) had taken over entire, or almost entire, pieces towards the end of the Baroque in any case... between the typical suite movement, and the earliest sonata-movement, he argued (I believe) that there was a gradual change. (As to WS Newman, the last especially of his three volumes was responsible for my introduction to the music of among others Felix Draeseke and Robert Fuchs.) Schissel 04:42, Dec 2, 2004 (UTC)

What is sonata?[edit]

Please someone knowledgable modify the introductory paragraph. The first line should mention that its a musical term (somhow). If someone has no idea what western musical terms mean, he would be completely lost at the end of the first paragraph. I mean words like movement dont mean much to people not familiar with western classical music. Also metion in the first paragraph if sonata is a piano heavy composition or not, my impression is that it is, but maybe I am wrong.

Hope this helps...

--Spundun 01:10, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Works called sonatas often are (not always, and even then this is true more of the period after the Baroque era than afterwards), while sonata form can apply to compositions with any instrumentation - voices, instruments, both. Schissel : bowl listen 01:29, Apr 5, 2005 (UTC)


i need to translate an article for the italian wikipedia, about the sonata.

i know it's ignominous, but we still miss this entry.....

i'm sorry for me beeing so ignorant, but since i found this and that, which one is the best for me to translate?

thanking you all in advance --joana 15:25, 24 May 2005 (UTC)[reply]

Mediant relationships[edit]

"Thus,the second subject of the Waldstein sonata for piano is in E major, four fifths higher (C -> G -> D -> A -> E) than the tonic key of C major (...)" As far as I know the relationship between E and C is not normally thought of as being "four fifths higher", although it is technically correct. More acccurately, E major has a mediant relationship to C major, because they are a third apart. Beethoven got very interested in these median relationships, i.e. he would modulate to keys minor and major thirds "above" and "below" the tonic. -Rich

You're quite right. I've edited the article accordingly. Also I removed the remark about how Beethoven never modulated two fifths higher, which is speculative and also pointless if you consider the "four fifths higher" thing as a mediant instead. The answer to that question would of course be that he never modulated from, say, C to D simply because it's not a dominant or mediant, the two relationships commonly employed. You might as well ask why he never modulated a tritone of a major seventh. EldKatt (Talk) 11:21, 23 April 2006 (UTC)[reply]

The question would not be completely facetious, because before Beethoven the mediant relationship was not yet viable as a dominant substitute, except in the specific case of the relative major in a minor key. Paradoxically, Beethoven's major innovation here was to make the dominant minor usable again as a secondary key for a minor tonic, as seen for example in the Piano Sonatas Op. 27 No. 2 in C-sharp minor and Op. 31 No. 2 in D minor, through his expansion of Haydn's techniques that could give this weaker secondary tonality enough weight: previously, when people like C. Ph. E. Bach used it, it only worked because his music tends to imply the higher classical standards and then not live up to them (I am aware that this judgement is very harsh, but there is some truth to it: his style, unlike that of the later Haydn, does not completely exploit the possibilities of the contemporary musical language).

Beethoven's conquest of the mediants started timidly. Haydn and Mozart had no problem using the mediant major as a secondary tonality in minor keys, and soon made the submediant major also viable for the slow movement (e.g. KV 310, KV 466, KV 516). Haydn's innovation was to use chromatic mediants for the slow movement from the Quartets Opp. 71 and 74 and the second half of the London Symphonies onwards, as well as many of the late piano trios: this soon became also possible for the trios of minuets, as in that of Op. 77 No. 2. It seems clear that if Haydn had not been stopped from composing by his illness, he would have continued alongside Beethoven; the slow movement of the unfinished Quartet Op. 103, his last work, uses the flat submediant major as a dominant, although this is a slow movement and so the harmonic opposition is weaker.

Mozart's use was quite different; we need only look at two Piano Trios in E major to see this, like Charles Rosen does in The Romantic Generation. In Haydn's (the late one with the fake pizzicato on the piano), Haydn uses the mediant relationship dramatically to move and set up a harmonic shock, by going from B major to G-sharp (A-flat) major at the start of the development with a false reprise. Mozart, on the other hand, puts his mediants at the end of the exposition, when B major (the dominant) has been firmly established; the mediants go as far as G minor and back, but there is no real movement, and the whole progression is as much for colour as that of the astonishing chromaticism in the G minor Symphony and the last Piano Concerto in B-flat. Mozart's work in the classical style was essentially self-destructive, as much as the unification of wildly differing emotional affects (e.g. the Commendatore scene, Pamina's aria, the G minor quintet, and the G minor symphony). In this he can be said to be the true forefather of Schubert and Tchaikovsky.

Beethoven carried on Haydn's use of mediant relationships for slow movements, before daring to use them in relation to the dominant in a three-key exposition (e.g. Op. 10 No. 3), and then later using them as true dominants. First he conquered the diatonic mediants: the submediant minor (Op. 29) and mediant minor (Op. 31 No. 1), but both with significant oscillations into and out of the major. After that, he could dare to remain in the major until the very end, in the Waldstein (Op. 53), Hammerklavier (Op. 106), and String Quartet Op. 130 (III, VI, and VI respectively). The minor mode also retained these advances; in the Appassionata, Beethoven could apply this oscillation to the mediant major and minor.

It's worth noting that Mozart dared to use even more remote harmonies. Haydn already dared to use VII in a three-key exposition in the Quartet Op. 17 No. 6 (but still going to V; this is a more expressive form of the dominant minor, foreshadowing Schubert's taking over this idea as early as the First Symphony). Mozart's operas sometimes use even more remote secondary tonalities, as they can thanks to the dramatic situation; hence the great sextet in Don Giovanni can use the leading-tone major as a secondary tonality, not to be equalled until the use of the leading-tone minor in the finale to Beethoven's Op. 110 (and then he needed to construct his own drama). The slow movement of Schubert's Sonata D. 959 astonishingly uses no single secondary tonality at all: instead it goes through pretty much all of them, as the second subject group and development have become one. (The coda being so short, the development has to do some work at resolving itself, and the long sitting on V at the end has a paradoxical feeling of resolution after such harmonic waywardness, perhaps because of its emphasis of IV and iv of V, which is of course the original tonic.)

So yes, Beethoven did modulate a major seventh, and while he never used the tritone, Schubert did in the Symphony Fragment D 708A. (Haydn and Mozart could pull these off only in opera.) The problem is that these tonalities are so remote that they are harder to use, and so it is not a common relationship compared to the mediants, which share a note with the tonic as well as contain a dissonance against it. That is the key feature they share with the dominant and that is why Haydn and Beethoven could exploit them as they did. Double sharp (talk) 06:44, 24 October 2017 (UTC)[reply]

Sonata Form versus Multi-movement cycle[edit]

The article currently starts out saying that the term 'sonata form' can be applied both to a single movement and to multi-movement pieces in the form of a sonata, but then goes on — without being particularly clear about it — to discuss the single movement usage of the term. I think as it stands the opening sets the whole thing off in a confusing manner. I think the term 'sonata form' is almost always used in the single-movement sense, and I propose that we tidy up the opening to put less emphasis on the multi-movement interpretation of the term. Anuone violently disagree? — Stumps 13:53, 10 May 2006 (UTC)[reply]

I've gone ahead and made some straightforward changes, moving (for now at least) the few sentences about multi-movement forms to the article Movement (music) ... separate articles on three movement form , concerto form, etc. are probably worth starting. — Stumps 10:55, 11 May 2006 (UTC)[reply]

Merge-with Sonata forms[edit]

I have removed the merge-with Sonata forms tag, and the matching tag from that article. I have replaced the mereg-with of Sonata forms with a cleanup tag. The Sonata forms article is a verbose, confused, and opinionated mess copied from 1911 Britannica. The content - which mostly related to multi-movement cycles (see previous discussions above on this page) does not belong here, as it is - at least nowadays - a very non-standard usage of the term 'sonata form' (bordering I suspect on the erroneous). Confusing the multi-movement scheme of sonata-like pieces with the exposition/development/recapitulation scheme of single movements in 'sonata form' (standard usage) would simply detract from this article. Stumps 10:59, 31 May 2006 (UTC)[reply]

In a n effort to cleanup up the oldest article tagged for cleanup I am redirecting 'Sonata forms' to 'Sonata form' since it appears to be mostly copied from 1911 Britannica. I did not merge any of the lengthy 41k long 'Forms' article into this already meaty article. Please see it's revision history if you would like to extract material. I am not familiar with the subject and probably not the best candidate to pick and choose which content to include (if any). Barkeep Chat | $ 16:55, 29 April 2008 (UTC)[reply]

Classical, "normative", and "post-normative"[edit]

Stirling Newberry, what do you mean by "classical and normative" and "post-normative", according to your edit summary. Marcus 23:47, 27 August 2006 (UTC)[reply]


  • CPE Bach can't be considered part of the Classical period. Should he be removed from the statement in the second paragraph, or should the term "Classical" be modified or added to in that statement?
  • Why only the "early" works of Beethoven as models?
  • Does Rosen argue that there is "a single tonal background which defines all sonata movements"?

This article needs major rewriting. Tony 03:50, 10 September 2006 (UTC)[reply]

  • Pre-Classical and Classical period maybe? I'd rather change the period designation than remove CPE, since I think he was significant in the early development of sonata form.
  • I'd include "middle" period Beethoven as well, but you can find non-standard sonata forms almost anywhere in Beethoven.
  • Don't know; I don't have a copy of that on hand. Schenker certainly does. Antandrus (talk) 04:25, 10 September 2006 (UTC)[reply]

I'm afraid that I've removed a lot of definition stuff at the top. Having announced what the article is about, with a brief point about the other use of "sonata", the article should proceed to the meat of the matter. I've used "18th century" rather than a style in the discussion of the origins (which, IMV, should mention Sanmartini, who first used an identifiable sonata structure). The origins of sonata form were evident in the baroque (binary dance movements), the roccoco and the early classical periods. This should be stated in the lead. The reference to Rosen and Schenker, and harmony and common practice period, are all of questionable relevance to the lead, which should summarise the topic by stating the defining features of the form, and its history. I think the lead still needs to be completely rewritten.

I hate the quoting of another encyclopedia in the first section, and the Rosen quote seemed to revisit the obsession with the other usage of the term that was clouding the lead.

Tell me if I'm wrong, but I think that the essential points to be covered in the lead are:

  • the two basic meanings of the term;
  • the historical origins and scope of the form;
  • the fact that it's based on the drama of key change, with the home key and another key in opposition, each typically, but not always, assiciated with distinctive musical ideas;
  • the fact that it comprises three sections: exposition, development and recapitulation; and
  • that fact that there are two dramatic peaks - (1) a return to the opening material, typically two-thirds to three-quarters of the way through, and (2) the final chord.

Tony 13:25, 11 September 2006 (UTC)[reply]

I like your summary of points to be covered in the lead, and certainly agree about Sammartini (G.B.; I think there was another one, but doubt he was significant). We do need to mention, as you note, that the binary forms of the Baroque were the point of origin, or one of the points of origin of the sonata form. Antandrus (talk) 15:18, 11 September 2006 (UTC)[reply]
The lead is now much cleaner. Thanks, Tony. The whole matter of sonata versus sonata form is easily dealt with, by simply resolving and declaring how we are going to use the terms. I think we should go with the large majority, represented by the heavyweight Rosen, and not bother with the long disquisition in the present Overview section. I agree with Antandrus: the points you suggest for the lead are worthy ones, Tony. It may be well to pitch the whole article at the user who follows a link from Sonata, Symphony, Concerto, etc. Such a reader doesn't want all this fuss and confusion, but a treatment of sonata-form movements occurring in those larger structures. This could and should be delivered briefly and without curlicues in the lead, followed by orderly analysis in the remainder of the article, for those that want it.
(For technical reasons I can't easily edit right now.) Trivial matters like getting consistency with multimovement versus multi-movement should be fixed, of course. Yes, there are two Sammartini (note spelling), and the distinction ought to be made; the "other" one (Giuseppe, older brother of GB) wrote in less progressive ways, and is not so relevant here. We don't see a lot of Jan Křtitel Vaňhal or Karl von Ordoñez in these discussions, do we? I think we should.
The article remains wordy, obscure, and in need of focus; even more pressingly, the whole suite of articles related to sonata (this one, Sonata, History of sonata form, Criticism and sonata form, the very odd Sonata forms, etc.) needs rationalising. They should all be considered together for restructuring and rewriting, I say. Let's hope we can find a way to achieve that in harmonious collaboration, calling in a few more of the editors who work in music articles. – Noetica 21:54, 11 September 2006 (UTC)[reply]
I agree, Noetica, and thank you and Antrandrus for you comments. Regrettably, the next six weeks will be quite taxing for me: scientists crawling up the wall wanting help with research grant applications. But I'll try to help when I can find time. Tony 14:51, 12 September 2006 (UTC)[reply]
Criticism and sonata form has been folded into a redirect now: its issues appear to be over 10 years old, and nowhere near to a solution in sight. --Francis Schonken (talk) 07:29, 18 July 2016 (UTC)[reply]

Clean up 'Overview' section[edit]

Currently the 'Overview' section starts with two quotations. This seems a little odd, and reads as though it may be debris left from a POV dispute. The sentence "Since the clearly most frequent usage is to use the term sonata form to describe the form of individual movements, and the term sonata without hyphen as applying to whole works, this article will focus on the schematic of the sonata allegro form as a movement layout" also seems to much like a barrister carefully stepping through an argument (Quite possibly I'm the guilty editor! I remember making some sort of attempt to remove the multi-movement discussion from the article a longish time ago).

I'd prefer to see a simpler more direct statement of the consensus position, and we could put the quoted excerpts in the footnotes if we really thought them necessary. Any objections? Stumps 07:03, 18 November 2006 (UTC)[reply]

Nice assessment, Stumps. Yes, this may indeed be seen as an old battleground of sorts. I do hope that the battles are long over! As things stand I don't want much involvement with the article. If you agree that the term sonata form should be understood as applying to a single movement only, usually one of several movements in a larger work, it would be great to see the lead and the overview section simply saying that, clearly and without fuss. I think the Rosen and EB quotes would go very well in footnotes. And if you were to tidy what you can of the remainder of the article, that would earn you points in music-article-editor heaven. I'll be happy to step in to do some copyediting if that seems necessary later; and I'm sure others will want to come back then also. Beyond that, I still think that the whole suite of articles connected with sonatas needs reform: preferably coordinated reform. – Noetica 09:29, 18 November 2006 (UTC)[reply]
I think Stumps's suggestion is just fine. Opus33 21:20, 12 July 2007 (UTC)[reply]

Unresolved Recapitulation[edit]

I am unfamiliar with any sonata forms that utilize an "unresolved recapitulation." I think it would fitting to provide some examples of this, or remove this text. Tjonp 18:52, 12 July 2007 (UTC)[reply]

I've never heard of this either, and unless someone provides a source, I'd be happy to see the section get deleted. Opus33 21:20, 12 July 2007 (UTC)[reply]
I went ahead and removed the section, if someone can provide examples, they are welcome to undo my edit. --Tjonp 18:22, 13 July 2007 (UTC)[reply]
You will find this only after sonata form had ceased to live, as in the Brahms F major cello sonata. Double sharp (talk) 00:46, 26 January 2018 (UTC)[reply]

1. Help out with in-text references! 2. Or, wait a minute...?[edit]

1. -if you reasonably agree with my Development revision, that is. Or in the rest of the article. I agree with the "More citations" template, but I, too (?), am the kind who takes in knowledge and forget where I got it from. Keinstein 23:35, 23 July 2007 (UTC)[reply]

[P.S. just not to be misunderstood: I didn't mean I'm uncritical. I think I can assess my sources well enough - when I tap them.]Keinstein 12:28, 24 July 2007 (UTC)[reply]

2. I am new on Wikipedia. And I did this, no masterpiece but an improvement, to the best of my judgement, in good faith. But after reading some previous discussion here: Am I being naïve? Stepping into a beehive? Is this worth any effort? Keinstein 23:48, 23 July 2007 (UTC)[reply]

Obviously not. Keinstein 01:16, 24 July 2007 (UTC)[reply]

Hello, Keinstein, sorry if I was mean. But I do have two points I would like to make.
  • The bit about reference sources is meant to be very serious - we are supposed to be tranducers from legitimate reference sources to the pages of the encyclopedia, and nothing more than that. You can add footnotes with <ref>Citation here</ref>. The footnote will show up at the bottom.
  • Be sure to add material at the point in the article where it belongs. If you put it in way up front, we get a rambling, unorganized introduction, with too much detail.
I'm actually a bit (over?)sensitized to possible problems with this article, because a few years back it had major problems with certain editors putting in marginally relevant, unsourced material--possibly just rants or their own invention. The article has been seriously improved more recently, largely by editors who follow the textbook standard in this area, and I encourage you to do likewise. Sincerely, Opus33 03:45, 24 July 2007 (UTC)[reply]
OK, no hard feelings. I know the kind of problem myself. And thanks for the practical tip!
But two opinions of mine: 1)While there can of course be no introduction without mention of the traditional rôle of key in sonata form, I think a (verified) remark that the form - or, matter of definition, its "concept" etc. - doesn't hinge on it also belongs there. 2) I am not certain just what you mean by "textbook standard", so I just put down here: I think, where good schools or scholars differ, that also should be reflected in a good article. On its due place, of course; but there is a delicate balance between puzzling the reader, and giving the impression that the form is more hewn in stone than it is. Regards, Keinstein 15:41, 24 July 2007 (UTC)~[reply]
And that "matter of definition" of course poses a problem that must be addressed in some legible way. Pardon my oversight. 16:25, 24 July 2007 (UTC)

In opera[edit]

Because of the dramatic power of sonata forms, and because most composers of opera have written works in which one expects sonata form, even if few (a symphony by Georges Bizet, a string quartet by Giuseppe Verdi, and a piano concerto by George Gershwin -- none of these being trivial works), one should not be surprised to find sonata forms within operas. Operatic overtures such as those of Die Zauberflöte and Die Meistersinger are obvious enough, as are such stand-alone works such as Brahms' Tragic Overture and Mendelssohn's overture to the incidental music for A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Such an operatic scene as the triumphal celebration of the Egyptian defeat of the Ethiopians in Giuseppe Verdi's Aïda seems to have a sonata form. Would a section mentioning operatic works and oratorios be appropriate? To be sure, we may be more attentive to the vocal performances within operas to notice any musical structures, but that is no excuse (in my opinion) for neglecting opera. Even the most operatic of symphonies and song-cycles -- let us say Mahler's Eighth Symphony and his Das Lied von der Erde are themselves in sonata form.

It's a suggestion because I have no qualification as a creator or critic of music; I am merely a consumer.--Paul from Michigan 14:50, 12 September 2007 (UTC)[reply]

Hmm, we would need to cite reference sources. My own knowledge is limited here, though I can point out that Charles Rosen likes to treat certain sections of Mozart's operas (e.g., the "finales" at the ends of acts, or the sextets in The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni), as inspired by sonata form. I find these particular assertions by Rosen to be more intriguing than proven, but wouldn't mind seeing them reported in the article. Opus33 17:10, 12 September 2007 (UTC)[reply]
They cannot possibly be "inspired" by sonata form when that was not a thing in Mozart's time that you could be inspired by. It was just the way one would write. I would admittedly not go so far as saying that the average 18th-century listener would be surprised if a piece of music did not go to the dominant (or a substitute), as this is not really a requirement in lighter movements (e.g. there are no large sections in the dominant in the slow movement and finale of KV 570). But whenever one needs a complex and tightly organised structure, it is absolutely necessary. Double sharp (talk) 09:43, 9 October 2016 (UTC)[reply]

Subsections of single-movement works...?[edit]

"Subsections of works are sometimes analyzed as being in sonata form, particularly single movement works, such as the Konzertstück in F minor of Carl Maria von Weber."

Can someone please amplify or clarify the above? I find it impenetrable as it stands. Pfistermeister (talk) 19:13, 1 June 2008 (UTC)[reply]

And what on earth does this mean??[edit]

"Exceptions to the recapitulation form include Mozart and Haydn works which often return to the second subject group when the first subject group is elaborated at length in the development."

Seriously: this article, as it stands, is *a shambles*... Pfistermeister (talk) 22:05, 1 June 2008 (UTC)[reply]

Update, 2010: The article is still a shambles. Gingermint (talk) 04:21, 23 October 2010 (UTC)[reply]

Minor suggestions[edit]

From my opinion, in chapter "History of sonata form" the term "by the likes of Czerny and so forth" should better be modified or deleted. Czerny as composer - in some of his works at least - was certainly not one of the "likes and so forth". In his first 100 works there are several most remarkable ones. An example is his Sonata in A-flat op.7 which is far and wide being recognized as masterwork.

The subsequent term "the composers of the day - both major and minor masters - were writing works that flagrantly violated some of the principles of the codified form" is - without giving exaples (Who are those "major and minor masters", and of which kinds are their works?) - a Weasel term. So, also this should better be modified. (talk) 09:59, 11 June 2008 (UTC)[reply]


The section on monothematicism needs some work. Firstly, there are two conflicting value judgments concerning the practice: in the third sentence, it is suggested that even though Mozart was capable of writing many melodies, he sunk to the level of a melodically less inventive composer in writing a monothematic exposition; contrast this with the fifth sentence, which elevates Haydn for doing the same thing. Secondly, as the section itself points out, "monothematic" is misleading, as such expositions have multiple themes. What is really meant is "main theme transposition", i.e. the theme initially presented as the principal one reappears in the second half of the exposition transposed into the new key. EvanCortens (talk) 02:10, 13 April 2009 (UTC)[reply]

Ludicrously incompetent analysis[edit]

Who is responsible for that ridiculous and incompetent attempt at analysing a Haydn exposition? It is COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY WRONG. Whoever did it clearly knows nothing about what sonata form involves; is deaf to harmony and tonality; and can't even tell when his music example is repeating a subsection of music that should not be repeated. A truly shocking display of cluelessness - which will do damage to young people and beginners who will think that all that clever stuff with graphics and sound files must somehow be right. What an awful spectacle. Pfistermeister (talk) 17:29, 21 June 2010 (UTC)[reply]

This gets madder and madder. Whoever it is has just added two successive statements of the recapitulation -- and called them 'coda'... Words fail... Pfistermeister (talk) 17:58, 21 June 2010 (UTC)[reply]
Look, can you please stop doing this *and look at a text book*...?!? Pfistermeister (talk) 18:01, 21 June 2010 (UTC)[reply]

Thank you for finally or temporarily determining the difference between an article and a talk page. You could also begin the discussion by explaining what is awful about the spectacle rather than simply declaring it so.

Regarding madness, your request that I simply look at a textbook is obviously not based in reason. Hyacinth (talk) 18:25, 21 June 2010 (UTC)[reply]

You are an utterly incompetent analyst. Kindly leave the topic alone. You have managed to include the entire transition within what you think of as the first theme -- because you cannot hear harmonically. You have called the start of the second subject 'transition' -- even though it is entirely based on D major harmony and isn't transitioning anywhere -- because you cannot hear harmonically. You have not labelled the codetta of the exposition -- because you do not know what one is. You have called the entire recapitulation 'coda' -- because you do not know what one is. And your music examples play the end of the exposition twice and all of the recapitulation twice -- because you are completely out of your depth musically and technologically. Kindly go and do something else. Pfistermeister (talk) 18:36, 21 June 2010 (UTC)[reply]
You don't own any article or intellectual topic, and are not allowed to tell readers and editors hands off.
Personal attacks are not allowed on Wikipedia. Please comment on the content, not the contributor.
For example, how could we or I improve the article? Why and how should the musical examples be altered and how would that improve the article? Hyacinth (talk) 18:41, 21 June 2010 (UTC)[reply]
I've already told you more than you can understand. By all means put your clownish attempt back as it was -- and look even more of a fool. Pfistermeister (talk) 18:56, 21 June 2010 (UTC)[reply]

You know, this isn't a terribly difficult subject. I would fix the article myself except every time I start reading it I turn purple and start pacing up and down and ranting! Really, it is a straight enough and simple a subject and I'm begging that someone (preferably someone who isn't very dumb) fix it. Gingermint (talk) 04:25, 23 October 2010 (UTC)[reply]

More incompetent analysis in the music examples...[edit]

Another day, another burst of inept pseudo-analysis: we are now presented with a Mozart 'coda' which actually contains some material that isn't coda, being merely the end of a perfectly straightforward recapitulation.

The contributor, who is obviously completely out of his depth musically, will not accept correction or re-labelling of the fruits of his utter analytic incompetence, and (inevitably) cannot present sources or references to back up his clownish errors. So the music examples are *all* 'Original Research' as well as Obvious Rubbish. They must be deleted. Pfistermeister (talk) 17:27, 23 June 2010 (UTC)[reply]

Ooooh, look! He's finally agreed to stop pretending that the Haydn recapitulation is a coda! We might almost be about to see baby correct the other nursery-level mistakes! Fingers crossed! Pfistermeister (talk) 22:01, 23 June 2010 (UTC)[reply]
So: come on. Are you man enough to admit that I was right about the (non-)coda? Are you prepared to admit that you were wrong to revert my correction? Are you? Pfistermeister (talk) 22:12, 23 June 2010 (UTC)[reply]
Are you saying that, regarding the article, you find progress and compromise rather than conflict and degradation displeasing? You're angry if I disagree with you, you're also angry if I agree with you? Hyacinth (talk) 01:28, 24 June 2010 (UTC)[reply]
Your behaviour so far has been so incompetent, evasive and dishonest that your 'agreement' is utterly worthless. And you are still misrepresenting even correct parts of the analysis shown in the book -- which I have in front of me, so stop pretending that your examples follow it. Can't you get someone to explain it to you? Pfistermeister (talk) 09:35, 24 June 2010 (UTC)[reply]
You need to stop making personal attacks, screaming, and start reading the article. Hyacinth (talk) 02:27, 12 July 2010 (UTC)[reply]
I have already corrected your mistakes and those of your low-grade source. I suggest that you are the one who needs to read what's there. You would learn something. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Pfistermeister (talkcontribs) 04:36, 12 July 2010

Sonata form pyramid[edit]

The following comment had been left in the article:


In this case it was coming from Pfistermeister, who analyzed the image the way he described above, rather than "correctly": with the transition as a part of the development. Though we may attempt to display dozens of opaque objects atop each other, obviously, this is the best that may be done visually. Hyacinth (talk) 02:36, 12 July 2010 (UTC)[reply]

Uh, pardon me, but it is *utterly wrong* to 'analyze the transition as part of the development'. The transition is *located within the exposition*, and thus at least *one whole tonal-thematic statement away* from the start of the development.
What is more, the new version of the diagram, recently added, is as bad as the old one; i.e. utterly misleading as well as unsupported and unreferenced. The Freytag diagram's authentic (non-musical) form [see] shows a 'rising action' to a 'climax', and a 'falling action' afterwards, leading to a 'denoument'. In the clownish example that has been fabricated as a 'sonata form' equivalent, the 'development' is presented as the peak, with an (unlabelled, implied) 'rising action' before it and a 'falling action' apparently after it. But this is ridiculous, improvised nonsense: no textbook would claim that a sonata development is reached by a 'rising action' beginning after the exposition... and the musical listener knows that calling the development 'climax' violates their experience of a majority of sonata structures. And where does anyone claim in the theoretical literature that a sonata recapitulation corresponds to a drama's 'denouement'...? This is all nothing but *amateurishness* and *fantasy* -- from a contributor who has already shown himself to be out of his depth in this topic. The diagram -- which, as I have said, has no support in the literature and is vacuous OR -- must be deleted. Pfistermeister (talk) 09:56, 15 July 2010 (UTC)[reply]
If it is so obvious you should be able to cite a source which indicates that the sonata form recapitulation is the climax (an increase in tension, rather than a lessening). Hyacinth (talk) 04:08, 16 July 2010 (UTC)[reply]
What ridiculous rubbish! YOU are the one unilaterally pretending that a pyramid diagram developed in the analysis of novels and 5-act dramas should now be applied to a musical form that is harmonically binary and thematically ternary. YOU are the one imposing this inept Original Research on the page; YOU are the one seriously out of your depth and *totally lacking references*. The pyramid diagram in this context is *unsupported garbage*. Get rid of it, before I remove it. Pfistermeister (talk) 21:57, 16 July 2010 (UTC)[reply]

It has been suggested that Recapitulation (music) be merged with Sonata form. I didn't add the tag to "Recapitulation" so I wouldn't know why. Any thoughts? Hyacinth (talk) 01:15, 24 June 2010 (UTC)[reply]

Merge tag removed. Hyacinth (talk) 02:40, 13 July 2010 (UTC)[reply]

It has been suggested that Exposition (music) be merged with Sonata form. I didn't add the tag to "Exposition" so I wouldn't know why. Any thoughts? Hyacinth (talk) 01:15, 24 June 2010 (UTC)[reply]

Merge tag removed. Hyacinth (talk) 02:40, 13 July 2010 (UTC)[reply]

Home Key?[edit]

This might sound like a stupid question, but what's a "Home Key"? I've never come across the term before. I only know of the following ways to describe a relationship between keys

  • Tonic
  • Supertonic
  • Mediant
  • Subdominant
  • Dominant
  • Submediant
  • Leading Note

It's in the article under Recapitulation > second subject group :) Gaymanrory (talk) 15:49, 29 October 2010 (UTC)[reply]

As mentioned in the article, home key is a commonly used term for the tonic. (see Exposition, First subject group).--Francesco Malipiero (talk) 18:36, 29 October 2010 (UTC)[reply]
See key (music) and home. Hyacinth (talk) 19:24, 29 October 2010 (UTC)[reply]

I've never heard it been referred to as the Home Key, but I can't be bothered to rename it to tonic - this page needs sorting out enough anyway. But thanks for the clarification. PS- Hyacinth, I'm not sure weather or not your response was serious or not, but it wasn't in the slightest helpful. :)Gaymanrory (talk) 09:59, 30 October 2010 (UTC)[reply]


I don't suppose any of the geniuses that have made this article into the piece of sub-logical wreckage it is today have even the *faintest idea* what is wrong with an opeing sentence that goes-- "Sonata form . . . is a musical form that has been used widely since the early Classical period"...?? Pfistermeister (talk) 19:57, 15 May 2011 (UTC)[reply]

Yes, yes, "sonata form could not be defined until it was dead" (Rosen, p. 30). But the point is that the works that usually get this label are from that time. Double sharp (talk) 09:38, 9 October 2016 (UTC)[reply]


"The first required section is the exposition. The exposition presents the primary thematic material for the movement: one or two theme groups, often in contrasting styles and in opposing keys, connected by a Bridge Passage (not to be confused with the term 'transition', which has a very different use)."

Since the article goes on to use "transition" exclusively (as far as I tell), the parenthetical statement quoted above makes this article self-contradictory. It is also something of mystery to me, as most of the literature I've read prefers "transition"---in fact, though I've heard the term "modulating bridge", I've never seen the term "Brigde Passage".

Any objections to changing it to:

The first required section is the exposition. The exposition presents the primary thematic material for the movement: one or two theme groups, often in contrasting styles and in opposing keys, connected by a transition. (or, perhaps, ...modulating transition)?

-- Mahlerlover1 (talk | contributions) 00:00, 21 July 2011 (UTC)[reply]

Having not received any objections, I have gone ahead with the edit.-- Mahlerlover1 (converse) 01:05, 29 July 2011 (UTC)[reply]

false reprises need not be off the tonic[edit]

Haydn 46 (first movement) is an example. A particularly clever Romantic example is in the first movement of Alkan's Symphony for solo piano, where both the real and false reprises are in the tonic (C minor), but the false reprise is on a dominant pedal and clearly functions as a dominant preparation to the real reprise than immediately follows. Double sharp (talk) 10:27, 28 August 2016 (UTC)[reply]

(To be fair, putting the real reprise over a dominant pedal is not a new thing. Schumann did it in the Rhenish Symphony and Beethoven even more famously did it in the Appassionata sonata.) Double sharp (talk) 09:36, 9 October 2016 (UTC)[reply]

Can't we start again? This article is full of very interesting stuff, but it and the discussions here together seem to be based on a subconsciously pseudo-evolutionary retrospective narrative. In so doing some essential nuts and bolts have gone missing. I don't think even Rosen has them. But it must surely be possible to say who first used the description 'sonata form' in the sense intended here, and when? It might then be possible for readers to grapple with the fairly obvious evolutionary problem that composers were writing compositions using a structure that hadn't been defined or named. What did they think they were doing, and why? Rosen deliberately, in The Classical Style, uses the description 'texture' for what we have been taught to call 'sonata form'. Did naming the 'form' and teaching it as a 'form' to students produce better or different music?Delahays (talk) 14:30, 21 December 2016 (UTC)[reply]

Actually all these questions are answered in The Classical Style, though the answers are spread out across so many pages that they might have to be summarised. Basically, Czerny was the first to describe it, in around 1840, well after it had truly "lived". After the deaths of Beethoven and Schubert, sonata form stopped being simply the grammar of music, which everyone obeyed while composing, and started being a form that you could choose to follow for a work as a deliberate anachronism to gain respectability. Describing it as a form emphasised the thematic structure over the harmonic structure, with the result that all the harmonic animation that makes a Classical piece work is absent from the typical Romantic sonata form. So these become an essay in decorum (e.g. Mendelssohn and Schumann's chamber works), in regret for being born in the wrong century (e.g. Brahms), or as irony (e.g. Mahler). In summary, while sonata form is the language of music for around 1760–1830, it is no more than a form afterwards, to be used by every composer newly in his or her own style. Double sharp (talk) 11:33, 30 December 2016 (UTC)[reply]

I ought, belatedly, to thank Double-sharp, and I do, but what he says is open to quibble, on his own terms at least, depending on whether you plump for Reicha as theoretical identifier of the form or Czerny. What he says about Mendelssohn and Schumann's exercises in decorum makes sense if we accept Reicha as the first describer of "Sonata form", but not if we have to wait until Czerny. While we can still place Schumann in the context of what Rosen has to say about the Fantasia in C, Mendelssohn is a much more difficult case - the Octet for example, preceded the date offered for Reicha's definition by anything up to a calendar year. Then there is this notion of a"living" or autonomous "grammar"which somehow dies or dries into academia. Surely Schoenberg's notion of continuous variation is post-Wagnerian, and makes sense in the context of - say- Tristan, while the idea of sonata form as, say, one of a number of available choices for compositional processes (in a sort of supermarket?) to be used "academically" is a twentieth century one - available to Faure, or Stravinsky perhaps, but much less so to (was it really just a Procrustean Hobson's choice for Bruckner?) Mahler?Delahays (talk) 14:29, 2 September 2017 (UTC)[reply]

Sorry for the wall of text that follows. Rosen covers most of this in The Romantic Generation, Sonata Forms, and in some of his essays, but never in one place. Now I know why: the tale just keeps growing in the telling.
Yes, it is a little anachronistic perhaps to say that Mendelssohn and Schumann were busy studying Reicha and Czerny, but they were certainly looking at the works of Mozart and Beethoven that had become elevated to the classical canon. Since melody as a determiner of form had since become triumphant over harmony, it is not surprising that they would have interpreted the forms of Mozart and Beethoven as a succession of themes more so than being based on harmonic dissonance, and once you have that idea, the rest of the standard 19th-century definition of sonata form follows precisely: an exposition consisting of a first theme, a transition theme, a second theme, and a closing theme, followed by a development in which one new theme is allowed, and then a recapitulation containing everything the exposition had. The harmonic opposition of the exposition stops being interpreted as a polarisation, but rather as only creating a sense of distance (cf. Hummel's F-sharp minor sonata, and how Chopin imitated it in his B minor sonata). This reanalysis of Mozart and Beethoven usually works, if rather misleadingly, but it takes the essential drive that carries their works through completely out of the equation, and makes their form a formula that can supposedly accomodate almost any work at all. Schubert and Hummel of course are the start of this process, although the former does manage to escape from it fairly often. It's not so much thought of in history, but with each work of art taken on its own standards, measured against the classical standards that it also admits (since an artist has history, but each work he produces does not; only its reception does, and it is the reception of Mozart and Beethoven in particular that is the guide to the 19th century in music).
Let's take Mendelssohn as a case study. He had the late sonatas and quartets of Beethoven before him while he was composing his early works like the Octet. The A minor Quartet of Mendelssohn is so clearly based on the Quartet Op. 132 of Beethoven that it actually quotes it several places, and the overall effect is to create a homage to Beethoven (since not only the character of the original is copied over, but also some principles of construction from op. 95, and some details from opp. 130 and 135). This is a classicistic attempt to "wear one's learning on one's sleeve", so to speak, and use those imitations of the classical canon of Mozart and Beethoven (understanding of Haydn had flown out the window until Brahms) in one's personal manner; but the start was always from this prestigious, serious way to construct a work (hence Schumman's anxiety about how the new age supposedly required serious, large works, even though the early Romantic style was at its best in miniatures, or sequences of such as in the song cycles or the early piano works of Schumann). So you have cases like the E-flat quartet and the Overture to A Midsummer's Night Dream, where Mendelssohn uses the absolutely conventional ending of a development in the relative minor, and adds to it a totally personal effect of complete exhaustion and tranquility instead of the utmost tension. Even Mendelssohn's use of cyclic form, as in the Octet, comes from a synthesis of the explicit and implicit version in Beethoven and Schubert – the explicit form being something like the Wanderer Fantasy or the E-flat Trio, where the same melody pushes its way into multiple movements, and the implicit form being something like the Appassionata sonata where each movement uses similar motifs that are not explicitly turned into each other.
The problem is that all these innovations undermine the logic of the classical form: placing the moment of greatest stillness and repose at the end of the development makes the recapitulation seem redundant, and turning implicit cyclic form explicit concentrates its action to only a few specific moments and makes them lose the power to shape the work globally rather than locally. This sort of thing in Mendelssohn and Schumann is what Rosen is getting at: the material is not happy to be squeezed into the fixed form of the sonata, because they come from a totally different impulse. When Beethoven introduces his most interesting and personal effects, as in the distinctly odd form of the opening movement of the A minor quartet Op. 132 (which incidentally has precedents in some Haydn symphonies, such as No. 75 and No.89), they are not there in spite of the classical logic. They spring directly from it; the middle section in Op. 132/i is harmonically a development (which is more important) and thematically a recapitulation, thus necessitating a second section in the tonic which is harmonically a recapitulation and thematically a development in order to resolve the balance. This is not at all like how Mendelssohn and Schumann are at their most effective working against the classical system. In Beethoven's time, the sonata form had nearly been fixed by this sort of reinterpretation of Mozart's procedure by Hummel and Weber. That is what is so extraordinary about his late style compared to his middle style; despite this, it returns to the early 18th-century procedures, particularly those of Haydn, whose symphonies are famously difficult enough to analyse according to the Romantic model of sonata form that even Tovey threw up his hands and called Haydn's recapitulations codas merely because the reinterpretation of the exposition is so great that it sounds completely different (but still completely convincing), such as in the Oxford Symphony. (This happens, of course, because Haydn is a smaller-scale composer than Mozart. When Mozart essays a large work, like the Prague Symphony or the Quintets KV 515 and 516, it is so large that it needs almost complete symmetry for the resolution to be convincing. The difference between this and later procedure can be found in the early modernists, where Mahler, Schoenberg, and Berg need to shorten their expressive motifs rather than lengthen them to achieve a similar intensity to Mozart's G minor Quintet, and Webern's symmetry works best in a short work rather than a long one.) And this works because of the motivic concentration of late Haydn and Beethoven (e.g. the Harmoniemesse and the Missa solemnis of the two respectively), often on the most basic and diatonic elements of the tonal language, rather than the increasingly chromatic basis of Schubert (again discounting his later, more classical work), Hummel, Weber, and Spohr.
Rosen's emphasis on the Fantaisie Op. 17 of the latter is not coincidental – apart from its being dedicated to Beethoven, it is the only time when Schumann's device of splintering a piece into fragments has the power to sustain him through a large work that is thus as logically constructed as Beethoven's, although it is completely antithetical to him, and does not start from classical-based expectations and then subvert them in his personal manner. (Which is a dichotomy that will surface itself again in the works of Schoenberg and Stravinsky, especially in the former's invention of dodecaphony to get away from the fact that the expressive values of his dissonant motifs in the period of free atonality come directly from what they mean in tonality as a foreign language.) Even Liszt's B minor Sonata, "Dante" Sonata, and "Faust" Symphony, although they do recreate the harmonic logic of classicism, are once again worked through his personal manner with what might as well be an unwritten program (and apart from these three works his attitude towards sonata form is to evade the question). And all these attempted to start from Beethoven; Chopin did not even start from there, and instead went from Mozart through Hummel in his three great sonatas (the B-flat minor and B minor for piano, and the G minor for cello) – which is perhaps the reason why Chopin's use of sonata form is often more convincing than Mendelssohn's or Schumann's, because Mozart's style based on long periods and melodies instead of small motifs is already very close to the later Romantic idea of the supremacy of melody, and his free use of chromaticism often comes very close to destroying the harmonic clarity he still treats as primary (just how close these two are can be seen in the last three concerti, KV 537, 595, and 622). Brahms, of course, treats the academic spirit of classicism as his fundamental principle of how to compose, and even then his new effects tend to work against the classical system just as those of Mendelssohn and Schumann. A good example is in the Quintet Op. 111/ii, where the accompanying lower strings emphasise the release of the two violins' appoggiaturae, instead of the attack; an anti-classical effect that depends on the classical tradition to be understandable. (The main exception I know of is the opening of his Second Piano Concerto, whose incorporation of a statement of the main theme into the piano's opening cadenza is such an obvious and logical idea after the Emperor Concerto that Beethoven himself used it in his sketch for a sixth piano concerto.)
This is what Rosen means by sonata form becoming academic: up till Beethoven and Schubert its history was the history of the Classical style, while after them its history has become simply the history of how each individual composer twisted it to his own style. It didn't have to be written down by Reicha or Czerny explicitly; all that was needed was the shift from harmony as primary to melody as primary that came with the Romantic era. From there, the wholesale reinterpretation of Mozart and Beethoven follows. Add to that the prestige associated with them, the unsuitability of early Romantic style to the construction of really large works that can go on for longer than the Classical procedures of Beethoven would allow at their limit (think of the Ninth Symphony), and you have a recipe for the academicism of the first Romantic generation when they were not creating their more individual miniatures.
The Romantic style doesn't gain the power to tie together extremely large works, larger than Beethoven, until Wagner with Tristan und Isolde (which even then clearly comes from the heritage of Chopin, specifically his supple handling of the four-bar phrase rhythm that comes from Mozart's periods, with his linear chromaticism learned from Bach and Mozart that shows up above all in the Polonaise-Fantaisie and the last page of the Mazurka Op. 50 No. 3, combined with the public nature of Liszt). (And while Wagner himself didn't really use sonata form as such, his conception of harmony is not so far removed from that of Brahms, in which diatonic passages start to feel like a quotation against a chromatic background, as is most obvious in Meistersinger.) This extreme taste for chromaticism then asserts itself into sonata form in Bruckner, and then through Reger and Scriabin. (If you look at the autograph of Bruckner's Seventh Symphony, someone – perhaps Bruckner himself – has marked numbers under the bars, only they switch back to 1 the moment a phrase has concluded, in a kind of acknowledgement of the role of the four-bar phrase.) I suppose these are long enough after Reicha and Czerny, with the "graduation symphony" being already a thing for Mahler, that the idea of "great works need to be symphonies in serious sonata form" can be accepted here without further explanation. ^_^ It's not something that they were thinking about at all at this point; it was just second nature, and persisted through Schoenberg's and Stravinsky's neoclassicism, until Boulez's squib about Schoenberg (really about Leibowitz). (The astonishing thing is how Schoenberg, who more than anyone else in his generation understood how the traditional forms of Western music were so intimiately related to tonality, still felt that he needed to recreate these forms in serial music as well to show that it was still part of the tradition, and almost willfully refused to understand how his earlier works of free atonality like Erwartung and Pierrot lunaire worked; so our closest understanding of this earlier period comes from Berg, especially in Wozzeck, where the old expressionistic excess is toned down. Also fairly similar is Stravinsky's abrupt retreat from Le sacre du printemps.)
I am not sure we will ever be completely free from the classicising procedure; the prestige of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven is just too high, and for good reason, even as we keep destroying the traditions they built up and justified. And perhaps ironically given my mention of Boulez's Schoenberg est mort, the late Schoenberg has been imitated so many times that just like Haydn, the creator of yet another musical style, he has been upstaged by one of his disciples (Webern and Beethoven respectively), who has become part of a new canon, and has been imitated so many times to start the classicising procedure all over again, complete with the general misunderstanding of how dodecaphony actually succeeds in creating analogues for consonance and dissonance and other determiners of form in Western music just like sonata form was so completely misunderstood by the Romantics. Double sharp (talk) 08:12, 19 October 2017 (UTC)[reply]

Is this piece an example of a sonata form movement with a short transition instead of a development? ShangKing (talk) 22:22, 16 July 2018 (UTC)[reply]

Yes. This has also been called slow-movement sonata form or cavatina form. Double sharp (talk) 08:20, 17 July 2018 (UTC)[reply]