A sonata is a piece of instrumental music made up of several contrasting movements. Sonatas can be played by an orchestra or just one instrument, like a piano.
A sonata also describes the form of an individual movement, usually the first movement of a sonata, symphony, or concerto. Sonata form dates back to the Classical Period. There are three sections of a sonata.
The exposition introduces the themes for the first time. There are two contrasting themes called subjects with transition material between them.
Normally, there is a coda at the end of the exposition. A coda is concluding material that is distinct from the rest of the music. The exposition usually ends in a different key.
The themes introduced in the exposition are altered, or developed. Techniques used to develop the musical materials can include repetition in different voices, modulation, inversion, and introducing different rhythms.
In the recapitulation, the themes introduced in the exposition are played again, usually with some variation. The section often opens with the primary theme in the tonic (home) key. Variations may include ornamentation and the changing the length of themes. A coda is often added to the end to signify the end of the piece.
- Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Sonata in F minor
- Joseph Haydn: Keyboard Sonata in G Major, 1st Movement
- W.A. Mozart: Symphony in G minor
Note: By clicking on the links above, you may be taken to another page not affiliated with ScholarshipAuditions.com.
The first movement of Mozart’s Symphony in G minor is an excellent example of sonata form. Here are some excerpts from the exposition, development, and recapitulation.
EXPOSITION: THEME I (G MINOR)
EXPOSITION: THEME II (B-FLAT MAJOR)
DEVELOPMENT: MODULATION OF THEME I
RECAPITULATION: MODULATION OF TRANSITION
On this page is the transition material used in the exposition to travel from G minor to B-flat Major. On the next page, the same transition material is being used in the recapitualation to modulate back to G minor.