Sonata in Music Explained: Review of Popular Compositions

mozart, the violin sonatasUnderstand what Sonata in Music means and review of popular compositions (Sonatas).

If you have been learning music for some time now and have been exposed to the classical genre, you must have heard about the ‘Sonata’.

Here’s Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, one of the more famous pieces in classical music.

Sonata used to mean any piece of music that was played (as opposed to a cantata, a piece that was sung).Over the years, the term evolved and became quite important during the era of Classical music.

Sonata music composition usually has three or more movements, and can be for piano alone (piano sonata) or for any other instrument with or without piano accompaniment (violin sonata, cello sonata, etc.)

What is a Sonata, What Does it Mean?

Its basically a musical composition consisting of (usually) three or four contrasting movements that change musical keys. Its a composition for one or more solo instruments, one of which is usually keyboard instrument, however there are no vocals (Originally, sonata referred to music that was ‘sounded’, not ‘sung’).

The sonata, as generally accepted today, is a a piece of played music that usually follows the pattern of four movements:

  • Allegro – a lively open piece
  • Andante, or Largo – a slower movement
  • Minuet, or Scherzo – a light, dance type movement
  • Finale – Rondo, or some other lively piece, sometimes a repeat of the Allegro.

Note that the Baroque use of the Sonata was bit different to that in the Classical and Romantic periods.

Types of Sonatas

  • Type 1 sonatas: Contain only an exposition and recapitulation with no link between them
  • Type 2 sonatas: Recapitulation begins not with the onset of the primary theme, but substantially after the point, which is commonly around the secondary theme.
  • Type 3 sonatas: Standard structure with expositions, developments, and recapitulations that normally begin with the primary theme in the tonic.
  • Type 4 sonatas: These are sonata-rondos that begin with an expositional rotation that traverses the usual P TR ‘S/C pattern
  • Type 5 sonatas: Involves concerto-sonata adaptations, which are blends between earlier ritornello principles and other sonata types. Read more.

Popular Piano Sonatas

Checkout these popular sonata music compositions by great composers.

  • Beethoven: Complete Piano Sonatas
  • Beethoven: Complete Sonatas for Piano & Cello
  • Beethoven Complete Piano Sonatas, Collector’s Edition
  • Emil Gilels: Beethoven Sonatas
  • Mozart Piano Sonatas
  • Haydn: Piano Sonatas
  • Schubert: Piano Sonatas/Impromptus [9 CD Box Set]
  • Schubert: Piano Sonatas
  • Mozart: The Violin Sonatas
  • Beethoven: The Violin Sonatas
  • Bach: Complete Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin
  • Bach: Sonatas & Partitas 1
  • Brahms: The Cello Sonatas

Classical Music Sonatas

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