Sonata translates to ‘sounded’ or ‘sung’ in 17th centuryItalian.
Before the Classical Era, almost any instrumental work for a smallgroup could be referred to as a sonata. When the Classical Era arrived, theword sonata developed two distinct meanings. One definition of a sonata was aninstrumental genre and a multi-movement piece for piano or for piano with oneother instrument. The other definition, which this essay is about, is a musicalform often called sonata-allegro form. Sonata-allegro form is a Classical Erahomophonic form based on the dramatic development and interaction of two ormore main thematic groups, as demonstrated in opera.
The fact thatsonata-allegro form contains two or more themes distinguishes it from otherClassical Era homophonic forms. In fact, sonata-allegro form has its roots inBaroque Opera. Sonata-allegro form is non-sectional and dramatic, and relatesadjacent sections via contrasts. Sonata-allegro form gets its name from thefact that the final allegro movement of a sonata was generally made usingsonata-allegro form. It is generally used for the opening movement of classicalsonatas, and as a result it is also known as first-movement form. There is norigid, formal concept that has to be followed for sonata-allegro form; instead,it is fluid and has been evolving ever since the Classical Era. Sonata-allegroform can be described as an ABA form, with each section containing a relativelycomplex internal pattern.
Sonata-allegro form may be written as??:a:?b?a1?coda. Eventually, sonata-allegro form evolved to become adramatic conflict and narrative between two or more themes. Sonata-allegro formis made up of four main parts, and in order they are: the exposition (wherethemes are introduced), development (where themes interact and are developed),recapitulation (where the original themes come back in their original order butwith crucial changes), and the coda (supplies a convincing sense ofconclusion). The exposition is the first section in sonata-allegro formand introduces the themes. The more contrast between themes there is, thegreater the potential for dramatic conflict between themes during the movement.The themes will always contrast in key, and they are linked throughout themovement by modulating bridge(s). A modulating bridge is a non-thematictransition between themes that is marked by unstable harmonies containing fewor no closed cadences and contains sequences and other motivic, fragmentedmaterials. The exposition will end with the use of cadences.
The exposition isalmost always repeated so the audience can understand developmental changesthat the themes will later be exposed to. Also, the audience needs to hear itagain so they can secure their grip in two stable key areas before the harmonicinstability of the development section comes along. In the development section,themes are developed. Most development sections are based on previously heardmaterial and are not marked by closed cadences or a strong sense of tonic. Waysto develop the themes include fragmentation, modulation, use of open and/ordeceptive cadences, polyphony, and sequence.
In the recapitulation section, thethemes revert to their original order, with theme two heard in the tonic key.The modulating bridge(s) in this section begin and end in the same key. Thecoda comes last to bring the music to a convincing conclusion.