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Sonata

(from It. suonare: to sound).


A term used to denote a piece of music usually but not necessarily
consisting of several movements, almost invariably instrumental
and designed to be performed by a soloist or a small ensemble.
The solo and duet sonatas of the Classical and Romantic periods
with which it is now most frequently associated generally
incorporate a movement or movements in what has misleadingly
come to be called Sonata form (or first-movement form), but in its
actual usage over more than five centuries the title sonata has
been applied with much broader formal and stylistic connotations
than that.
From the 13th century onwards the word sonnade was used in
literary sources simply to denote an instrumental piece, as for
example in the Provenal 13th-century Vida da Santa Douce:
Mens que sonavan la rediera sonada de matinas. In a mystery
play of 1486 the phrase Orpheus fera ses sonnades occurs as a
stage direction. Cognate usages appear to be the sennets called
for in Elizabethan plays and the term sonada found in German
manuscripts of the same period for trumpet calls and fanfares, a
later manifestation of which were the more extended Turmsonaten
(tower sonatas) of the 17th and 18th centuries. In El maestro
(1536) Luys Miln referred to villancicos y sonadas, including
among the latter pavans and fantasias. Gorzanis gave sonata as
the actual title for passamezzos and paduanas in the first book of
his Intabolatura di liuto (1561), and it is similarly employed in later
collections of lute music. The rapid development of instrumental
music towards the close of the 16th century was accompanied by a
plethora of terms which were employed in a confused and often
imprecise manner. Sonata was one of them, although it was
nearly always applied to something played as opposed to
something sung (cantata).
1. Baroque.
2. Classical.
3. 19th century after Beethoven.
4. 20th century.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
SANDRA MANGSEN (1), JOHN IRVING (2), JOHN RINK (3),
PAUL GRIFFITHS (4)
Sonata
1. Baroque.
(i) Introduction.
(ii) Origins and early development.
(iii) Development 16501750.
(iv) Socio-cultural context.
(v) Performing practice and dissemination.

Sonata, 1: Baroque
(i) Introduction.
In the 17th century title-pages often used the term sonata
generically to cover all the instrumental pieces in a volume, which
might well contain no single work actually called sonata; there are
no sonatas, for example, in Buonamentes Il quinto libro de varie
sonate, sinfonie, gagliarde, corrente, e ariette (Venice, 1629). As a
genre label, the term competed with others (especially canzone
and sinfonia, but also capriccio, concerto, fantasia, ricercar,
toccata) that were applied to individual pieces difficult to distinguish
from sonatas, even in the works of an individual composer within a
single printed volume. Only after mid-century did sonata finally
displace its competitors as the most appropriate term for such
instrumental works.
For Brossard (Dictionaire, 1703) the sonata was to all sorts of
instruments what the cantata is to the voice, and was designed
according to the composers fancy, free of the constraints
imposed by dance, text or the rules of counterpoint. Brossard
categorized sonatas as da camera or da chiesa, a division that has
informed much later commentary; however, the former term, while
it appeared on title-pages more frequently than the latter, was
rarely applied to specific sets of dance movements before Corellis
op.2 of 1685. The mature Baroque sonata did acquire a set of
more or less consistent attributes, even if copyists still wavered
between concerto and sonata for a work borrowing something
from each genre. By 1750 sonatas were independent pieces,
usually in three or four separate movements, which could be heard
not only in church and chamber, but in concert or as interval music
at the theatre, where they might be played orchestrally rather than
by the chamber ensembles for which they had originally been
written. J.G. Walthers concise definition (Musicalisches Lexicon,
1732) is accurate for his time, and indeed for much of the Baroque
period: the sonata is a piece for instruments, especially the violin,
of a serious and artful nature, in which adagios and allegros
alternate. Here the use of the term and the development of the
genre from Gabrielis Sacrae symphoniae (1597) to the galant
sonatas of Scarlatti and Telemann will be traced. But discussion
cannot be limited strictly to sonatas so called, since often enough
what are (and were) recognizably sonatas appeared under labels
referring to another genre (capriccio), or to the number of parts
(solo, quadro), or even to proper names (Cazzatis La Galeazza,
1648). The main concerns in what follows will be the origins and
stylistic development, sociocultural functions, performing practices,
dissemination and reception of the sonata and its near relatives.
(For more comprehensive lists of composers, arranged by
chronology and geography, see NewmanSBE, 4th edn.)
Sonata, 1: Baroque
(ii) Origins and early development.

The instrumental canzona, which had grown in Italy from


instrumental arrangements of imported chansons, has usually been
regarded as the most significant precursor of the Baroque sonata.
The similarities between many early sonatas and contemporary
canzonas are undeniable: sectional structure defined by contrasts
in metre and tempo, reliance on imitative contrapuntal texture, and
immediate repetition or final recapitulation of the opening section.
For Michael Praetorius sonatas and canzonas were so intimately
related that he cited the canzonas and sinfonie of Giovanni
Gabrieli in his description of the sonata, and noted that sonatas
are composed in a stately and magnificent manner like motets, but
the canzonas have many black notes and move along crisply, gaily
and fast (Syntagma musicum, iii, 1618, 2/1619). Although there
have been many attempts to distinguish between the two genres,
composers and publishers seem to have used the terms
interchangeably. Both the generic meaning of sonata (e.g.
Tarquinio Merulas Canzoni overo sonate concertate per chiesa e
camera, 1637), and the close relation between the two genres (e.g.
in Cazzatis first two volumes of instrumental works, Canzoni,
1642, and Il secondo libro delle sonate, 1648) help to explain this
interchangeability. Moreover, local usage may have varied:
Montalbano, born in Bologna but working in Palermo, published a
set of sinfonias in 1629 that might well have been termed sonate
concertate had they and he been in Venice with Castello. Even a
composers occupation and training are relevant, since organists
tended to write canzonas, while virtuoso cornett players and
violinists more often produced sonatas. After 1620, however, the
term canzone was used less and less, although its stylistic
influence remained evident in the sonatas fast imitative
movements (actually labelled canzona by Purcell).
The close relation between the canzonas and sonatas of the early
Baroque is clearly reflected in Gabrielis two publications (1597,
1615) and in those of Gussago, Corradini and Riccio. Some early
sonatas (Gussago, 1608), are indistinguishable from the most
conservative of four- or eight-voice canzonas; others combine old
and new features. Gabrieli left sonatas or canzonas for as few as
three and as many as 22 parts, often grouped in two or more
choirs. Their association with sacred vocal music (in Sacrae
symphoniae), publication in Venice (which remained central to the
dissemination of Italian instrumental music until Bolognese firms
began to offer real competition in the 1660s), virtuoso upper parts
and precisely specified instrumentation are all typical of the earliest
sonatas. The Venetian polychoral style was influential even on
works for small ensembles: in one of Nicol Corradinis sonatas
(1624), pairs of unspecified treble and bass instruments engage in
dialogue and join together at cadences just as they would in a
double-choir canzona. Several canzonas for one to four
instruments and basso continuo and a single Sonata a 4 from
Riccios 1620 collection descend from the same tradition, although
Riccio incorporated more modern elements (tremolo, virtuoso

flourishes, precise instrumentation) than did Corradini.


Buonamente (Sonate et canzoni libro sesto, 1636) and
Frescobaldi (Il primo libro delle canzoni, 1628) wrote similar pieces
for one to six instruments. The modern scoring in few parts (for one
to three instruments) often invoked the label sonata in these pre1650 prints; thus, Marinis Sonate, symphonie, canzoni op.8 (1629)
reserves canzone for larger ensembles, but most composers
made no such terminological distinctions. One might compare the
instrumental works in few parts to Viadanas Concerti ecclesiastici
(1602), composed in response to the practice of performing fourvoice motets as solos or duos with basso continuo. While evidence
that canzonas a 4 were performed with such reduced forces is
lacking (although many do survive as both organ and ensemble
pieces), continuo players apparently provided the imitative entries
missing in the few-voiced pieces, whose model was still the multivoice canzona (the entries are actually supplied by Montalbano in
the continuo part to his solo sinfonias).
The stil moderno sonatas of Dario Castello (1621, 1629), while
still indebted to the ensemble canzona, are even more closely
allied to vocal monody. Constructed of sharply contrasting sections,
they often begin with an imitative canzona, and continue with an
instrumental dialogue reminiscent of the polychoral idiom, but
these sonatas also incorporate virtuoso solos or duets, candenzas,
and unmistakable manifestations of Monteverdis affections,
especially the stile concitato (Selfridge-Field, 1975). Riemann was
not alone in seeing incipient four-movement designs in Castellos
multi-sectional sonatas, but other scholars have rejected such
analyses, arguing that predictability itself is wholly incompatible
with the essential spirit of the stil moderno sonata, which sought to
overwhelm the listener in a wealth of conflicting emotions (Allsop,
1992). Castellos inclusion of at least one solo as well as an earlier
contrapuntal section is predictable enough, but the four-movement
sonata favoured by later composers such as Vivaldi or Albinoni is
rather far removed. Farina and Marini wrote sonatas comparable to
those of Castello.
The late 16th-century diminution practices described by Bassano,
among others, provided another important source of early sonata
style, as in the variations constructed around a repeated melody or
bass line by Salamone Rossi, Buonamente and, later, Uccellini.
Such pieces were called sonatas (Rossis Sonata sopra laria di
Ruggiero, Il terzo libro de varie sonate, 1613) or arias (Uccellini,
1642 and 1645), or simply carried the name of the borrowed tune
(Buonamentes Le tanto tempo ormai, 1626). A close relation, and
one of the few sonatas involving voices, is the Sonata sopra
Sancta Maria from Monteverdis Vespers (1610), in which pairs of
violins and cornetts weave a lively commentary around the
sopranos repeated phrase Sancta Maria, ora pro nobis,
supported by a quartet of bass and tenor instruments. Corellis
Ciacona (op.2, 1685) and Follia (op.5, 1700), as well the virtuoso

variations of Schmelzer, Biber and J.J. Walther, ultimately derive


from the same source.
Rossi also used sonata for several short binary pieces, which may
have served as introductions to larger compositions; among his
contemporaries sinfonia was the more usual name for such works.
Their trio scoring arose naturally enough from an identical
disposition of voices and instruments in sacred and secular
concerted music (e.g. Monteverdis Chioma d'oro for two sopranos,
two violins and continuo). Often the two solo instruments move in
parallel 3rds, supported by a simpler bass; in some works such
trios are juxtaposed with a larger force, as in Bernardis Sonata in
sinfonia 4 (1613). Sonatas a due (for two solo instruments and
basso continuo) and a tre (for three soloists and basso continuo)
make up most of the sonata literature for a century after 1620,
although the earlier variety among solo instruments (ss, sb, bb,
ssb, sss) was reduced after 1660 to a focus on the type for two
trebles and continuo, and strings increasingly displaced other
instruments (cornett, bassoon, trombone) found in the earliest
sonatas. Compare Brossards recognition of the variety of sonata
scorings in 1703 (We have Sonatas from one to seven or eight
parts; but usually they are performed by a single Violin, or with two
Violins and a thorough Bass for the Harpsichord, and frequently a
more figured Bass for the Bass Violin) with Rousseaus focus on
the soloist (Dictionnaire, 1768: The Sonata is ordinarily made for a
single instrument which recites, accompanied by a thorough bass).
Solos, more demanding than most duos and trios, were included in
several early published volumes (by Castello, Farina, Biagio Marini
and Montalbano), but by 1652 only Bertoli, Uccellini and G.A. Leoni
had devoted entire collections to solo sonatas.
The foregoing discussion has concentrated on developments in
Italy for good reason: while sonatas were composed before 1650
north of the Alps, it was Italian immigrants who were in the main
responsible. Buonamente worked in Vienna for a time, as did
Valentini and Bertali for much of their careers; Bernardi went to
Salzburg; Marini left Venice for Parma and Neuburg, returning only
late in his career; and Farina carried the Italian sonata and a
virtuoso approach to violin playing to Dresden. These Italian
immigrants far outnumbered the few native composers of sonatas
(Kindermann, Johann Staden, Vierdanck); only after 1650 did
many non-Italian composers begin to interest themselves in the
genre, but those who did made technical demands equal to or
greater than those in the Italian repertory.
Sonata, 1: Baroque
(iii) Development 16501750.
Riemann argued that what he somewhat pejoratively called the
patchwork canzona (Flickwerk) of the early 17th century evolved
into the sonata as the individual sections grew in length and were
reduced in number, until by Corellis time they had achieved the

status of separate movements. That much repeated view ignores


the persistence of multi-sectional alongside multi-movement
designs (e.g. in the sonatas of Uccellini, G.B. Vitali, Biber, J.J.
Walther, Buxtehude), yet the observation is not unrelated to the
mid-century repertory in which many sonatas do consist primarily
of tonally closed, if brief, movements. Merula (who called his
serious pieces canzone as late as 1651, reserving sonata for a
few lighter works), Cazzati and Legrenzi favoured such three- or
four-movement structures, although they shared no single pattern,
and individual movements are not always tonally closed. Legrenzi
left three books devoted entirely to sonatas, and another that
included sonatas and dances, published between 1655 and 1673.
(A further collection, op.18, published c1695, is lost.) A clear
division into separate movements (often including one in slow triple
time), a focus on duos and trios, and precise specification of
instrumentation are all evident in these collections. In some of the
sonatas, the opening material returns at the end, as in the
canzona; others differ from the Corellian model only in their lack of
an opening slow movement. In contrast to these church sonatas,
Legrenzis six chamber sonatas (op.4, 1656) are single movements
in simple binary form; G.M. Bononcini used sonata da camera
similarly, for an abstract single-movement work rather than a dance
suite (op.3, 1669). Maurizio Cazzati, controversial maestro di
cappella in Bologna (165771), published eight collections that
include sonatas for duos, trios and larger ensembles; three from
op.35 include trumpet, a hint of the later association between S
Petronio and that instrument. The sonatas in his widely
disseminated op.18 (1656) usually consist of four movements:
duple-metre imitative, grave, fast triple metre and quick imitative
finale. Tarquinio Merula favoured a similar plan: fugal opening, fast
triple-time movement, slow movement and vigorous finale. Uccellini
also moved away from the simple canzona model towards longer
and more virtuoso sonatas, usually divided into three or four
sections by changes of metre and tempo.
Cazzatis pupil G.B. Vitali, and Vitalis Modenese contemporaries
Colombi and Bononcini, continued to focus on duos and trios in
some ten volumes of sonatas published between 1666 and 1689.
Already steeped in those traditions, Corelli had arrived by 1675 in
Rome, where Colista, Stradella and Lonati composed sonata-like
sinfonias, usually for two violins, lute and continuo. Since the
Roman material circulated in manuscript, it has been somewhat
underemphasized in most histories of instrumental music, but
Corelli surely adopted the slow introductions (rare before the
1680s), strict fugal movements and triple-metre finales from his
Roman colleagues. Despite the many references to Corellis
sonatas (published 16811700) as normative, the four-movement
model usually attributed to him (slowfastslowfast) is present in
only half of his published sonatas.
North of the Alps, Bertalis ensemble sonatas, followed by the solo
and ensemble sonatas of Schmelzer, Biber, J.J. Walther and

Buxtehude, recall the drama and virtuosity of the Venetian stile


moderno at a time when sonata composition in Italy had become
more standardized. Their virtuoso solos incorporated multiple stops
and athletic string crossings; moreover, they continuted to depend
on sectional rather than multi-movement designs in which
successive events are on the whole less predictable than they are
in Corellis sonatas. They differ from the Italian models in other
ways as well: virtuoso writing for the bass viol (Johannes Schenck,
Buxtehude), greater interest in scordatura tunings (Schmelzer,
Biber), and a continuing devotion to ensemble sonatas a 5 or more,
reminiscent of Venetian polychoral style, but with even more
demanding treble parts for cornett, violin or trumpet. The legacy of
the ensemble sonata (and perhaps the continued cultivation of the
viol) may help to explain the more demanding bass parts: when
Corelli and his north Italian contemporaries were writing duos or
trios in which the violone or cello was at best an optional inclusion,
Buxtehude composed sonatas for violin and bass viol in which the
instruments have equally virtuoso roles. (But it should be
remembered that the solo cello sonata did emerge in Bologna at
about the same time, in works of Domenico Gabrielli and others.)
In addition, the Austrian and German composers devoted more
energy than did the Italians to the sonata-suite, in which an
abstract introductory movement is followed by a fairly standard set
of dances; more than 20 such collections appeared between 1658
and 1698. Rosenmllers Venetian publication of such chamber
sonatas (1667) had found no Italian imitators, despite a growing
tendency to group dances by key rather than type. In the northern
prints sonata or sonatina was the term most frequently attached
to the non-dance preludial movement (Rosenmller used
sinfonia); especially well represented are Biber, Dietrich Becker,
J.J. Walther and Schenck. A few native English composers wrote
sonatas at mid-century, influenced by the national devotion to the
viol and by their acquaintance with Italian and German sonatas.
The latter they knew both at home (Jenkins was associated with
the family of Francis North, who owned copies of works by
Schmelzer, Colista, Cazzati, Stradella and Pietro Degli Antoni), and
by virtue of their foreign employment (William Young in Austria, and
Henry Butler in Spain). Henry Purcells two published sets of
sonatas (1683, 1697), after the most famd Italian Masters, shared
the growing English market with sonatas by Italian and German
immigrants (e.g. Matteis, Finger, Pepusch).
After 1700, Italians continued to produce sonatas for both domestic
and international markets; Vivaldi, Albinoni and the Marcellos in
Venice, F.M. Veracini in Florence, Somis in Turin and Tartini in
Padua were some of the main contributors. Moreover, such Italian
migrs as Locatelli in Amsterdam and Geminiani in London
brought the latest sonata fashions to northern Europe. That most
were violinists is telling, although the oboe, flute, cello and other
instruments are also strongly represented in their collective output.
In these volumes the four-movement plan finally dominates

(although the third movement may not be tonally closed); the


emphasis begins to turn towards the solo sonata (nearly threequarters of Vivaldis sonatas, and all of Veracinis are for one
instrument and continuo); and the church-chamber distinction
disappears. In Corellis church sonatas, the final two movements
are often dances (sarabanda, giga), but in many of Vivaldis
sonatas the first two movements also employ binary forms. The
keyboard, relatively neglected by earlier sonata composers, begins
to receive some attention, especially from Domenico Scarlatti, who
focussed on one-movement binary forms, some of which are
paired in the sources. Other composers of keyboard sonatas (most
in two or three movements) include Benedetto Marcello, Giustini,
Durante and Platti.
According to Brossard, France was overrun with Italian sonatas
early in the 18th century, and French composers soon began to
contribute. Most notably these include Leclair lan, preceded by
Dornel and Blavet, and even Couperin, who wrote at least three
sonatas in the 1690s (published much later as preludes to Les
nations). Elisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre left a dozen sonatas for
one or two violins and bass; six were published in 1707, but
Brossard apparently copied two about 1695, making them among
the earliest composed in France. Of special note in France is the
accompanied sonata (Mondonville, Rameau) in which the violin or
flute accompanies the keyboard. The sonata for unaccompanied
solo instrument is associated particularly with Austrian and German
composers (Biber, Bach, Telemann), although Tartini may have
intended some of his sonatas, published with a bass part, for violin
alone (Brainard), and the Swedish composer Roman left about 20
multi-movement works of that type, most called assaggi. Some
programmatic or narrative sonatas are also associated with
composers in Austria or Germany (e.g. Bibers Mystery Sonatas
and Kuhnaus Biblical Sonatas), but Couperins grande sonade en
trio Le Parnasse, ou Lapothose de Corelli might also be
mentioned.
18th-century Austro-German composers moved more and more
towards the multi-movement design already standard in Italy, and
played a central role in the mixing and merging of national styles
that characterize the high Baroque sonata. Sonatas by Vivaldi,
Fasch, Zelenka, Quantz and Telemann placed galant idioms (the
natural and immediately appealing melody of the Adagio) side by
side with more traditional sonata styles (the fugues, whose value
for Scheibe in the late 1730s lay chiefly in their contrast with the
more expressive movements featuring accompanied melodies).
Especially interesting are the new trios and quartets in which the
basso continuo participates as a real part. Some, composed auf
Concertenart, borrow aspects of a typically Vivaldian concerto
style; others borrow from the operatic aria or recitative, French
dance and overture. If J.S. Bachs sonatas (unaccompanied solos,
and several works for one or two instruments with obbligato
harpsichord or basso continuo) are better known today than are

Telemanns over 200 ensemble sonatas and solos, the situation


was reversed in the mid-18th century. Quantity aside, there are
parallels between the two composers: both juxtaposed and
integrated national styles, and experimented with formal design
and scoring; neither abandoned the traditional four movements for
the newer three-movement fashion (as did Graun, Fasch, Tartini
and Somis). Telemann is often dismissed as over-prolific, but his
greater success in the 18th century may be attributable not only to
his skill at marketing (he personally printed much of his
instrumental music in didactic or encyclopedic collections), but to
his serious exploration of the new trio and quartet in the mixed
style (combining various national styles) for which contemporaries
praised him, and to his avoidance of the most old-fashioned
elements of sonata style.
Elsewhere in Europe, sonatas circulated widely in manuscript, as
well as in prints both imported and domestic; and musicians left
home in search of a better living, taking their music along. Handel
was only one of the many foreign musicians whose careers
blossomed in London, where imitations of Corelli and the traditional
trio sonata long remained fashionable. Handels contribution to the
sonata, like that of Bach, represents but a small portion of his total
output; however, it does include more keyboard sonatas (Bach
preferred the keyboard suite), as well as traditional solos and trios
aimed equally at the large amateur market and concert stage. A
focus on Handels sonatas may have inhibited modern exploration
of the many English sonata composers of the time (Babell, Boyce,
Arne).
Over the 150 years of sonata composition before 1750, several
trends are evident: the emphasis on counterpoint lessened; the
texture became increasingly treble-dominated; multi-voice and
polychoral sonatas gave way to duos and trios, which in turn
yielded ground to solos and quartets; the early multi-sectional
design grew to four or more separate movements, and then fell
back to three or fewer; what distinction existed between church and
chamber sonatas evaporated; instruments were more and more
precisely specified and their parts became increasingly idiomatic; a
focus on the violin grew stronger, and then was tempered by an
interest in sonatas for a variety of other instruments; keyboard
sonatas finally began to take their place in the repertory. As the
sonata gained popularity outside Italy, its Italian and AustroGerman elements were further enriched by a variety of national
approaches to instrumental music, from the English division (Henry
Butler) to the French emphasis on ornamental detail (Leclair).
None of these changes occurred overnight, but they are evident
enough when one compares sonatas from 1630 or 1700 with those
from 1750. Moreover, by mid-century the function and aesthetic
stature of the sonata had changed significantly.
Sonata, 1: Baroque
(iv) Socio-cultural context.

Brossard (1703) noted that, while there are many kinds of sonatas,
the Italians reduce them to two types. The first is the sonata da
Chiesa, that is one proper for the Church, The second type is
the Sonata which they call da Camera, fit for the Chamber. These
are actually suites of several small pieces suitable for dancing, and
all in the same scale or key. The liturgical use of Baroque sonatas
has been well documented (see Bonta, 1969): 17th-century
ensemble canzonas and sonatas replaced the organ solos formerly
heard at Mass, and solo violin sonatas were customary at the
Elevation; from about 1690, concertos or orchestral performance of
trio sonatas might be heard instead. Moreover, 17th-century church
musicians may have adapted longer sonatas by performing
isolated sections, a practice likely to have encouraged composers
to construct independent movements.
Early collections mixing vocal and instrumental music had no need
of the chiesa and camera labels; in sacred collections, sonatas and
canzonas are usually found (Riccio), in the secular ones, dances
and variation sonatas (Marini, 1620; Turini, 1621). Even purely
instrumental collections were so clearly orientated that their uses
would have been obvious to the purchaser: in Buonamentes fifth
and sixth books (1629 and 1636, cited above) both content and
scoring suggest strongly that the former is a secular, the latter a
sacred collection (Mangsen, 1990). Merulas per chiesa e camera
(1637) was thus unusual both in its label and in mixing serious and
lighter instrumental music in one volume. Such mixed volumes, as
well as those dedicated to church or chamber, appeared
throughout the century, usually without labels indicating function.
The editions of Corellis church sonatas (opp.1 and 3) are entitled
merely Sonate a tre, whereas most editions of the chamber
sonatas are actually labelled da camera. This in itself suggests
what can be documented by other means, that serious instrumental
music, even if conceived primarily for a liturgical context, was
regularly heard elsewhere, possibly somewhat transformed: at
meetings of the various academies, as domestic chamber music, in
concert, and even in the theatre (as overture or interval music).
The occasions for which such music was best suited (and where to
store the parts) would have been obvious to the musician of the
time.
Until 1700, at least in Italy, a sonata was assumed to be serious,
and therefore suitable for church; da camera marked the special
case. Brossard implied as much when, after describing the sonata
da chiesa, he noted that these are what they [the Italians] properly
call Sonatas. Chamber sonatas usually begin with a prelude or
little Sonata, serving as an introduction to all the rest. The long
tradition of such sonata-suites in Germany, as well as the growing
use of binary movements in place of the more serious fugues
(generally associated with sacred music), may explain why Walther
(1732) included a separate entry for the church sonata (which
merely gives the German equivalent), but not for the chamber
variety; chiesa was for him the special case, camera the norm.

Beyond title-pages and dictionaries, the dedicatees and collectors


of printed volumes sometimes yield information about the musics
use: Telemann dedicated some of his printed volumes individually
or collectively to amateurs, but professional musicians are also
heavily represented on his subscription lists. Corellis church
sonatas were dedicated to secular patrons, his chamber collections
to clerics, perhaps contrary to expectations. But those expectations
are probably too narrow, since some of the most significant
collectors of sonatas for the chamber were members of the clergy
(Franz Rost, Edward Finch).
Sonata, 1: Baroque
(v) Performing practice and dissemination.
Although some Baroque sonatas may boast a continuous
performing tradition, nearly every aspect of their performance has
changed since 1750, and even migration across borders within the
Baroque era was often attended by marked differences in
performance due to local practices. Thus performing practice of
Baroque sonatas is intimately connected to matters of
dissemination. 20th-century instruments and playing techniques, as
well as ideas about pitch, tempo, ornamentation, continuo
realization, dynamics and articulation all differ significantly from
their Baroque antecendents; even reading from the composers
autograph is no guarantee of a correct performance, since the
interpretation of standard notational signs will also have changed.
Only a few of these matters can be taken up here.
Many modern editors of Baroque sonatas suggest substituting one
instrument for another, a practice with some historical foundation,
but not sufficient to condone a completely ad libitum approach.
While instruments were specified more and more exactly between
1600 and 1750, many sources, some tied directly to the composer,
did give the performer a good deal of leeway. Leclair, for instance,
indicated that some of his violin sonatas could be played on (and
may even have been conceived for) the transverse flute, and he
even provided alternate versions of some individual movements.
Telemann offered several options for some of his ensemble
sonatas, as in the viol and cello parts for the Paris Quartets. Some
of J.G. Grauns trio sonatas exist also as works for obbligato
harpsichord and one treble soloist; and solo violin sonatas in score
were no doubt played as keyboard solos. Italian prints from Rossi
and Castello to Vivaldi frequently mention alternative instruments
(violin or cornett, theorbo or violone) more or less equally suited to
play a part. Even if no instruments were specified, however, it is
unlikely that composers were indifferent to questions of
instrumentation, or that no conventions operated among those who
played such pieces.
Ornamentation was a concern even in the 18th century: an
important selling-point for Rogers edition of Corellis solo sonatas
(1710) seems to have been the inclusion of the ornaments as he

played them. Baroque soloists ornamented sonatas according to


their ability and to such criteria as genre, national style, context and
tempo. Some composers (Handel, Babell, Telemann) supplied
ornamented versions of simpler lines, using smaller note heads, or
additional staves, probably intended and still helpful as models.
Some used particular phrases (affetti, ad libitum) or signs to
encourage departures from the notated pitches. Ornamentation
extended to improvisation in sections of sonatas by Colista,
Guerrieri and others, who provided only the bass part over which a
soloist was to invent a melodic line. Quantz, who included an
ornamented Adagio in his flute tutor (1752), warned readers that
both tempo and ornamentation should be adapted to suit the
context. Mattheson cautioned against performing (and
ornamenting) French pieces in the Italian style and vice versa; and
Burney noted that (in his day) Corellis sonatas were ornamented
more lavishly on secular occasions, and given a more restrained
performance in church (General History, ii). The increasing density
of the ornamentation supplied for Corellis solo sonatas in printed
and manuscript sources offers one demonstration of the ways in
which successive generations of performers embellished the same
piece, perhaps slowing the tempo in the process.
When a sonata moves across significant boundaries of time and
place, more extensive transformation may be expected. Thus,
some English sources of Italian sonatas not only misattribute
individual works, but alter the musical content, creating chamber
sonatas from dances grouped loosely by key, or merging continuo
and melodic bass parts. Spanish guitar transcriptions of Corellis
sonatas simply delete sections whose realization on the guitar was
impractical; sonatas in the Rost manuscript (F-Pn Rs.Vm7 653;
see Rost, Franz) omit inner parts to produce trios from quintets.
Availability of printed and manuscript copies of sonatas was
ensured as agents in northern Europe imported Italian prints,
visitors to the Continent returned to England with much soughtafter volumes, and sonata prints from northern presses began to
outnumber those from Italy. Sonatas remained throughout the
period more likely to achieve publication than operas or other
large-scale music (among important publication centres were Paris,
London, Hamburg and Amsterdam), but manuscript dissemination
was significant as well, especially outside Italy. Manuscript copies,
to the degree that they were aimed at a smaller circle of players,
yield information about local preferences in repertory and
performing practice, in contrast to the homogenizing influence
exerted by publication.
Rousseaus quotation of Fontenelles remark Sonate, que me veux
tu? (Dictionnaire, 1768) suggests that, at the end of the Baroque
era, sonatas were still less highly regarded than was texted music,
at least in France. But by 1739 the ties of abstract instrumental
music to narrowly defined social function had already weakened
sufficiently for Mattheson to offer a new view of the sonata

whose aim is principally towards complaisance or


kindness, since a certain Complaisance must
predominate in sonatas, which is accommodating to
everyone, and which serves each listener. A
melancholy person will find something pitiful and
compassionate, a senuous person something pretty,
an angry person something violent, and so on, in
different varieties of sonatas. (Der vollkommene
Capellmeister, trans. Harriss, 466)
This picture of the sonata as personal and domestic, intended
more for the individual player and a few listeners than for public
ceremony or concert stage, is one associated more with the
Classical period than with the Baroque. In fact Matthesons
response to the modern sonatas of the 1730s, combined with the
long shadow cast by Corelli, suggest a good deal of continuity in
the 18th-century approach to the genre.
Sonata
2. Classical.
Because of the impossibility of establishing clear stylistic divisions
between Baroque and Classical sonatas in the 18th century, and
between Classical and Romantic sonatas in the 19th century, the
period covered in this section extends from about 1735 to about
1820, leading to some overlap between the three style periods.
(i) Contemporary definitions.
(ii) Instrumental forces.
(iii) Functions.
(iv) Styles.
Sonata, 2: Classical
(i) Contemporary definitions.
Numerous definitions of the sonata, in generic, aesthetic and
formal terms, were attempted during the Classical period. Earlier
definitions such as Rousseaus (Dictionnaire de musique, 1768)
had described the sonata as consisting of three or four movements
in contrasting characters to instruments roughly what the
cantata is to voices, mentioning also the respective roles of the
soloist and accompaniment, as discussed above (I, 1). Such
definitions perpetuated the older, Baroque, concept of the sonatas
da camera and da chiesa, although in Rousseaus article there is
the hint of an emerging awareness of the solo sonata as something
distinct from the trio sonata.
J.A.P. Schulz, writing in 1775, defined the sonata as follows:
An instrumental piece [comprising] two, three or four
successive movements in contrasting characters
in no form of instrumental music is there a better
opportunity than in the sonata to depict feelings
without words [except for symphonies, concertos
and dances] there remains only the form of the

sonata, which assumes all characters and all


expressions . For instrumentalists, sonatas are the
most usual and useful exercises, besides which,
there are many examples, both easy and difficult for
all kinds of instruments . Since they require only
one performer to a part, they can be played in even
the smallest musical gatherings.
Schulzs article, originally printed in volume ii of Sulzers
Allgemeine Theorie der schnen Knste, was highly influential,
being the basis of later definitions by Schubart (Ideen zu einer
sthetik der Tonkunst, written 17845; Vienna, 1806/R) and Koch
(Versuch einer Anleitung zur Composition, iii, Leipzig, 1793, and
Musikalisches Lexikon, Frankfurt, 1802/R).
Some writers sought literary analogies for the sonata. D.G. Trks
Clavierschule (Leipzig, 1789) made a comparison between the
sonata and the ode, specifically in so far as both depend for their
effect upon the regulation of structure by adherence to a welldefined sequence of ideas. In this, Trk was perhaps influenced by
Forkels likening of sonata form to the rules of oratory, expressed in
the Musikalischer Almanach fr Deutschland (Leipzig, 1784):
one of the foremost principles of musical rhetoric and
aesthetics is the careful ordering of musical figures
and the progression of the ideas to be expressed
through them, so that these ideas are coherently set
forth as in an oration according to logical principles
still preserved by skilled orators that is,
exordium, propositio, refutatio, confirmatio, etc.
Forkels comments impinge specifically upon first-movement
Sonata form, a tacit acknowledgment that this movement was
considered the most important within a sonata in the later 18th
century. Definitions of sonata form by Koch, Portmann, Kollmann,
Galeazzi and others differ in details and in terminology, but agree
in the primacy accorded to tonal rather than thematic contrast.
(Thematic contrast, often of a dramatic nature, was to gain ground
in the sonata as developed by Beethoven, for example in the first
movements of his opp.54 and 109.)
Clearly, the sonata signified many different things to 18th-century
writers, varying according to the particular standpoint taken
formal, aesthetic or even national. In summary, a definition of the
sonata genre as understood and practised in the Classical period
might be a work in three (or, less commonly, four) movements,
most often for piano solo or else for duo (violin and piano being
numerically the most significant type), whose first movement was
almost invariably cast in sonata form, perhaps preceded by a slow
introduction (Beethoven, opp.13, 27 no.1 and 81a; Clementi, op.32
no.2), followed by a contrasting slow middle movement in a related
key (often on the flat side of the home tonic), episodic form and
cantabile idiom, and a finale (most frequently a rondo too

frequently, according to Charles Burney or sonata-rondo; see


Rondo) that rounded off the work in a lighter vein. Minuet (or
scherzo) and trio movements are sometimes found sandwiched
between the slow movement and finale (as in many of Beethovens
sonatas up to op.31). Frequently, mid-18th-century sonatas had
featured a minuet as finale (Wagenseil, tpn, Haydn). In
general, use of dance metres such as the allemande steadily
declined in the Classical sonata, being mostly restricted to brief
topical allusions (to the minuet, for instance, at the opening of
Mozarts k570), although at times Beethoven openly specifies a
dance topic (op.54, first movement).
Within such generalized schemes were myriad possible variations,
as may be demonstrated by contrasting Haydns and Mozarts
attitudes to the sequence and number of movements in their
sonatas. From his earliest efforts Mozarts was a three-movement
plan, most frequently fastslowfast, a procedure Koch regarded
as standard in the final volume of his Versuch (1793). Such a
succession was never so sacred to Haydn, however: the fifth of the
Esterhzy sonatas, hXVI:25, is in two movements; hXVI:30 (1776)
has no clearly separated slow movement, merely a link between
the Allegro and the concluding Minuet. Of continuing significance
throughout Haydns keyboard sonatas is the presence of the
minuet, found in only two of Mozarts sonatas (k282/189g and
k331/300i). Two-movement sonatas (for instance, Haydn,hXVI:40
42, hXVI:52; Beethoven, opp.54, 78, 90, 111) were by no means
uncommon. Neither were first movements in sonata form the
infallible rule. In Haydns hXVI:4042 (1784) only hXVI:41
conforms to that norm; hXVI:49 (178990) begins with a set of
double variations, alternating major and minor modes, and marked
Andante con espressione; Mozarts k331/300i in A and
Beethovens op.26 likewise begin with a set of variations; Rutinis
op.7 sonatas all begin with preludes, allowing the player to feel his
or her way into the Affekt of the piece (or perhaps to become
familiar with the instrument) before launching into the main
business. Sonata form itself, as practised by pre-Classical and
Classical sonata composers, was capable of infinite variety. All of
Mozarts first-movement expositions in the early set k279
83/189dh and k284/205b (1775) are richly polythematic
(particularly in the second-subject group), whereas Haydns
roughly contemporary hXVI:21 and 26 are, by contrast,
monothematic in the sense that the first and second subjects
begin almost identically, although additional melodic material is
always introduced during the course of second-subject groups
(hXVI:25 is an exception, containing at least nine distinct themes).
Sonatas were typically issued in printed sets of two, three or six
works (e.g. Haydns hXVI:216 and 359 and 20; Mozarts k3016,
30911 and 33032; Beethovens opp.2, 10, 12, 27 and 102; and
many of Clementis). As the Classical period wore on, however, the
scale was expanding such that a single sonata could justify an
opus number of its own, such as Mozarts k533 or Beethovens

opp.7, 22, 57, 96 and 106. Frequently dedicated to a prominent


member of the aristocracy, the published sonata, whether singly or
in a group, could secure widespread attention for the composer, as
Leopold Mozart no doubt realized when arranging for some of his
sons early sonatas to be printed.
Sonata, 2: Classical
(ii) Instrumental forces.
Sonatas for solo keyboard were to become the most significant
type during the Classical period, although, in numerical terms, the
sonata with violin accompaniment (see below) was predominant.
In 1821 Castil-Blaze noted that the sonata suits the piano best of
all, on which one can play three or four distinct voices at the same
time It is also on this instrument that it has gone furthest in its
astonishing progress (NewmanSCE, 3/1983, p.94). Sonatas were
also composed for violin (obbligato), cello (whose role as continuo
bass was liberated by Boccherini and extended by Beethoven),
flute (Sjan), clarinet (Vanhal), guitar (Sor), baryton (Haydn), horn
(Beethoven) and organ (C.P.E. Bach). Duet sonatas were popular
for domestic amusement, principally for four hands at one piano,
such as those of J.C. Bach, Mozart and Seydelmann; other
pairings included two violins (Pleyel), violin and viola (M. Haydn;
Mozart) and bassoon and cello (Mozart). It is worth remarking also
that sonatas originally conceived for one medium were transferable
to others: Beethovens E major Sonata op.14 no.1 exists in a
version in F for string quartet (Schwager, SM, xvi, 1987, pp.157
69).
The earliest extant collection of sonatas for piano (i.e. fortepiano)
solo is Giustini's 12 Sonate da cimbalo di piano e forte detto
volgarmente di martelletti (1732), although early examples of the
instrument had been developed by Bartolomeo Cristofori by 1709.
From the 1760s sonatas for keyboard began to appear in
increasing number, among them examples published by Eckard in
Paris in 1763 and 1764. The intended instrument is frequently
ambiguous in mid-century sonatas. Often the designation is simply
clavier, although internal evidence sometimes betrays the need
for a touch-sensitive instrument: while the fortepiano is not
specified on the title-page of J.C. Bachs op.5, certain effects
contained in that set are impossible to realize satisfactorily on the
harpsichord (but performance on the clavichord remains a
possibility). During the 1770s the alternative cembalo o pianoforte
was commonplace on title-pages; by the end of the century
clavecin, clavier and cembalo are only rarely encountered.
During much of the Classical period the genre known as
accompanied sonata was very much in vogue. Early forerunners
include J.S. Bachs sonatas bwv101419, for violin with written-out
keyboard parts (rather than realized figured basses), and
Mondonvilles
Pices
de
clavecin
en
sonates
avec
accompagnement de violon, op.3 (1734), the latter almost

exclusively in three movements but featuring fugal allegros and


binary dance structures typical of the Baroque. The accompanied
sonata was specially prevalent in France. In addition to
Mondonvilles op.3 such sets as Rameaus Pices de clavecin en
concerts avec un violon ou une flute et une viole ou un 2e violon
were published (1741), soon followed by Guillemains Pices de
clavecin en sonates avec accompagnement de violon (1745),
which includes in its preface the following remark:
my first thought had been to compose these works for
keyboard alone, without any accompaniment but,
in order to satisfy the present taste, I felt unable to
dispense with [the violin] part, which must be
performed very softly so that the keyboard part may
be easily heard. If desired, these sonatas may be
played either with or without the [violin]
accompaniment.
This vogue reached its height in Paris during the 1760s and 70s in
the published sonatas of Schobert, Honauer, H.F. Raupach, J.F.
Edelmann and Hllmandel. Mozart was acquainted with the work of
the first three (arranging their music in the pasticcio keyboard
concertos k37, 39, 40 and 41) and his own early efforts in the
genre (k6, 7, 8 and 9) may have been influenced by his discovery
of Schobert and his Parisian contemporaries while touring in 1763
4. Schoberts work was especially popular, it seems: a dozen sets
of sonatas were published in Paris before his death in 1767. His
Six sonates pour le clavecin oeuvre XIV les parties
daccompagnements sonts [sic] ad libitum, originally printed in
Paris, appeared again in Amsterdam, published by Hummel, as Six
sonates pour le clavecin, avec accompagnement dun violon
oeuvre quatrime. In this latter form they were advertised in the
1770 fifth supplement to Breitkopfs thematic catalogue (Trii di
Schobert a Cemb[alo] e Viol op.IV Amsterd[am]). In all such works
the keyboard part was almost entirely self-sufficient, the
accompanimental role of the violin being restricted to thematic
doubling in 3rds and 6ths, or the provision of anodyne background
figuration derived from Alberti bass patterns transferred to the
middle of the texture, or else harmonic filling in the form of long,
held notes, similar in function to those often assigned, orchestrally,
to the natural horn. This practice may have had something to do
with the gradual disappearance of the cello as a supporting
continuo instrument from the mid-century, combined with weakness
of tone in early fortepianos. Occasionally, as in some of
Hllmandels op.6 sonatas or Clementis op.27 (1791), the violin
part acquired greater individuality, even parity with the keyboard.
Solo keyboard sonatas (for example, Haydns hXVI:37 in D or
Mozarts k570 in B ) were sometimes reissued, without the
authority of the composer, as sonatas with accompaniment for a
violin, particularly in England (with violin parts devised by Burney),

where the fortepiano rather than the originally non-committal


clavecin is often specified.
The violin became an equal partner in the ensemble in Mozarts
duo sonatas from at least the late 1770s. k454 in B , published in
1784 alongside two solo sonatas, k333/315c and k284/205b, is one
such example, opening with an affective slow introduction. The
subsequent Allegro contains many moments of dialogue between
the violin and the pianos right hand, a texture that was to become
so important a trait in the later Classical duo sonata, a memorable
illustration being the opening of Beethovens Spring Sonata in F
op.24. Parity between the instruments is taken a step further in
Beethovens op.30 set: in the G major Sonata op.30 no.1 the slow
movements main theme is shared phrase for phrase between the
piano and violin towards the end of the movement. Nevertheless,
the accompanimental perception of the violin in such sonatas
persisted into the early 19th century, long after it had attained equal
status with the piano: Beethovens Kreutzer Sonata op.47 (18023)
bears the designation per il pian-forte ed un violino obligato on its
title-page.
Sonata, 2: Classical
(iii) Functions.
Classical sonatas were known by a variety of generic titles. In
England the term lesson was commonplace (Samuel Arnold,
op.7); elsewhere solo in Italy (Giardini, op.16), pices de clavecin
in France (Mondonville, op.3), divertimento in Austria (Wagenseil,
op.1, several of Haydns early sets) were common. The diminutive
sonatina was particularly associated with keyboard pedagogy and
is most obviously linked with the name of Clementi (specifically the
op.36 Sonatinas of 1797).
An awareness of the pedagogical connection is fundamental to a
proper understanding of the Classical sonata. In 1789 Trks
Clavierschule included a list of keyboard composers arranged
according to the difficulty of their sonatas. Haydn recalled at the
end of his life that he had once earned his living giving keyboard
lessons, and his early sonatas arose for use in such a setting.
Mozarts letters from Mannheim in late 1777 indicate that the C
major Sonata k309/284b was composed for Rosa Cannabich,
whom he was teaching at the time. Its slow movement (Andante)
calls for the utmost sensitivity to dynamic contrast, and a letter to
his father of 14 November is valuable in linking the movement with
specific pedagogic issues:
The Andante will give us the most trouble, for it is full
of expression and must be played accurately and with
the exact shades of forte and piano, precisely as they
are marked. [Rosa] is smart and learns very easily.
Her right hand is very good, but her left,
unfortunately, is completely ruined I have told her
too that if I were her regular teacher, I would lock up

all her music, cover the keys with a handkerchief and


make her practise, first with the right hand and then
with the left, nothing but passages, trills, mordents
and so forth, very slowly at first, until each hand
should be thoroughly trained.
Wagenseil, who was tutor to the imperial archduchesses in Vienna
under Maria Theresa, probably designed his solo sonata sets
specifically for the instruction of his royal pupils; in general, these
are straightforward, technically undemanding pieces. The op.5
sonatas of J.C. Bach (1766) were certainly composed with a
pedagogical end in view (the title-page trumpets the fact that Bach
was Music Master to Her Majesty and the Royal Family), and it is
instructive to approach a work such as the third sonata in the set
from this perspective, the successive variations of its finale clearly
being intended primarily for the demonstration, and eventual
mastery, of different technical problems at the keyboard.
The English Bachs elder brother, Carl Philipp Emanuel, must be
regarded as one of the most significant composers of pedagogic
sonatas (nearly all in three movements). He issued a number of
sets, including the Prussian (1742), Wrttemberg (1744), six sets
fr Kenner und Liebhaber (177987), and two sets of sonatas mit
vernderten Reprisen (1760, 1761) whose primary purpose was
that of teaching material. Bachs reputation covered most of
Europe, and it has been suggested that the taste of his public
played a significant role in the design of his later sets (G. Wagner,
Mf, xli, 1988, pp.33148). His sonatas were frequently included in
the keyboard anthology publications (Oeuvres mles) of Johann
Ulrich Haffner during the 1750s and 60s. Haffners anthologies (12
volumes, each containing 6 sonatas) offered a wide selection of
works by composers from every corner of musical Europe, and
were hugely important in the formation of mid-18th-century galant
taste. Among the composers represented are, besides C.P.E. Bach
(particularly works in the empfindsamer Stil replete with
impassioned melodic and rhythmic gestures, recitativo declamation
and recherch harmonies), Scheibe, Schobert, Benda, Eberlin,
Adlgasser, Leopold Mozart (three of whose solo sonatas were
published in this collection) and less well-known men such as
Bernhard Hupfeld, Rachmann, J.F. Kleinknecht and Jan Zach.
Haffner drew attention to each composers court appointment at
the head of each sonata, such as the Sonata Vta Composta dal
Signor Henrico Filippo Johnsen, Organista della Corte, Direttore di
Musica, ed Organista alla Chiesa di Santa Chiara, a Stoccolma,
found in volume iii of Oeuvres mles. Although Haffner was not
the only publisher to issue such keyboard anthologies (see
NewmanSCE, 3/1983, chap.4) he dominated the market that was
opening up for sonatas that varied in their technical demands from
the easy to the moderately challenging. Anyone owning a complete
set of all 12 volumes about 1770 would have had access to a richly
varied and comprehensive record of the early Classical sonata.

For the most part, the domestic and pedagogic market for
Classical sonatas was female (C.P.E. Bach issued a set of sonatas
specifically lusage des dames in 1770). Talented female
keyboard players were relatively plentiful in the second half of the
18th century; they included Katharina and Marianna Auenbrugger,
to whom Haydn dedicated his six sonatas hXVI:359 and 20 in
1780. Indeed, the social etiquette of the age virtually dictated a
certain degree of keyboard proficiency for ladies: among
aristocratic families, for instance, ability in that direction could be
important in attracting an acceptable husband. During the 1780s
several of Mozarts Viennese pupils were ladies from the higher
echelons of society (Countess Thun, Countess Rumbecke).
Somewhat lower down the scale were Theresia von Trattner (wife
of the prominent bookseller and publisher, and dedicatee of the
Fantasia and Sonata in C minor k475 and 457, published by Artaria
in 1785), Barbara von Ployer and Josepha Barbara von
Auernhammer; the last two carved out successful careers as
performers. Therese Jansen (later Mrs Bartolozzi), a pupil of
Clementi, was yet another, to whom Haydn dedicated his famous E
sonata hXVI:52 (and perhaps also hXVI:50 and 51) in 1794.
Besides its function as teaching material, the Classical sonata
found a place within the aristocratic salon, a forum that became
increasingly popular during the second half of the 18th century,
especially in France and Austria. Such salons, at which only the
upper classes were normally present, were private affairs usually
given in the homes of counts and countesses, less frequently in the
homes of court officials such as LAugier, the Viennese court
physician, one of whose meetings was attended by Charles Burney
in 1772. It is only ocasionally possible to recover any programme
details of such private gatherings, such as that at Hohen-Altheim,
the country residence of Prince Kraft Ernst von OettingenWallerstein (17481802), on 26 October 1777, when Mozart
performed his sonatas in B k281/189f and D k284/205b. The most
famous of Viennese salons was that of Countess Wilhelmine Thun,
a staunch patron of Mozarts during his early years in the capital,
who lent her fortepiano for the famous contest with Clementi before
Emperor Joseph II on 24 December 1781. Clementi later noted that
on this occasion he himself had played his Sonata in B op.24
no.2. Mozart's record of the meeting describes Clementi in less
than flattering terms, noting that he was a mere technician, whose
star passages were 3rds and 6ths. The association of Clementis
sonatas with empty technical brilliance (as in the op.2 set of 1779,
for instance) highlights a weakness that Clementi himself freely
acknowledged, and it is noteworthy that Rochlitz, reviewing
Clementis sonatas opp.33 and 37 in the Allgemeine musikalische
Zeitung in 17989, praised Clementis avoidance of exactly such
passages, something that was evidently regarded as a fingerprint
of his earlier style. According to Schindler, Beethoven owned
almost all of Clementis works (he had little by Mozart and nothing

by Haydn), which he valued for their lovely, pleasing, fresh


melodies [as well as] the well-constructed fluent forms.
Throughout much of the Classical period the solo sonata remained
a domestic genre. Only towards the end of the 18th century and in
the early 19th did it become a concert piece, typically issued with
the title Grande Sonate, and that trend was inextricably linked with
the rise at the time of such virtuoso performers as Beethoven,
Hummel and Dussek. Mozart scarcely ever played his own sonatas
in public performances, preferring the concerto and variation
genres as vehicles for exhibiting his keyboard prowess. The rise of
the concert sonata is to some degree linked with increasing length
and advancing technical difficulty. Beethovens sonatas, which
cover virtually the whole of his career, tread a steady path away
from the kind of piece that could have been played by talented
amateurs. Works such as the Waldstein, Appassionata and
Hammerklavier sonatas were only ever attainable by professional
players, and also demanded a new kind of listener, familiar with the
intellectual demands of the other public genres of symphony and
concerto and featuring juxapositions of contrasting themes and
textures that demanded the listeners active, rather than passive,
attention. In those respects, Beethovens middle- and late-period
sonatas (whether for solo piano or duo, such as the cello sonatas
op.102) go far beyond anything that had formerly been the
preserve of the aristocratic salon. Also notable in the later concert
sonata is a tendency towards more expansive, at times dramatic
gestures in such turbulent movements as the first movement of
Beethovens sonatas op.31 no.2 (sometimes associated with
Shakespeares Tempest: see Albrecht, 1988) and op.57. A parallel
strand is the studied introspection of op.101 or the finale of op.111,
an idiom that was to influence Schubert (in the slow movement of
the late B Sonata d960, for example).
Sonata, 2: Classical
(iv) Styles.
During the mid-18th century the sonata was an important
laboratory for stylistic change, from the late Baroque to the galant.
The characteristics of the former may be summarized as including
a continuously spun-out melody, featuring sequential writing and
general avoidance of contrasting melodies, a tendency towards
polyphony (whether real or implied, as in some of J.S. Bachs
violin sonatas), and a relatively uniform harmonic rhythm. Some of
these elements begin to break down in the sonatas of, for example,
Domenico Scarlatti (especially as regards melodic and textural
contrast). Scarlattis single-movement sonatas are closely related
in outline to the familiar binary structure of the Baroque dance suite
and are notable for a steady movement away from the patterned
uniformity of Baroque rhetoric towards the more dynamic interplay
of galant-style phrase articulation.

The galant idiom, which reached its peak during the 1750s and
60s, favoured a wholly different approach towards melody, which
proceeded in short phrases of two or four bars, arranged in
symmetrical patterns and closing with balancing imperfect and
perfect (half and full) cadences along with a use of the 6-4 chord so
extensive as to be almost a clich. Characteristic of galant melody
was its tuneful, lyrical quality, dotted rhythms (sometimes inverted
as the Scotch snap), interruption of the prevailing flow by triplet
quavers, affective use of rests and long appoggiaturas, contrast of
dynamic and articulation. Textural characteristics include a marked
absence of polyphony and especially of fugal imitation, tending
instead towards a simplicity and transparency of presentation,
generally confined to two strands, one for each hand. Variety of
harmonic rhythm (a reaction against turgid and artificial late
Baroque practice as identified by Scheibe in his critique of J.S.
Bachs music) was a fingerprint of the galant style, made all the
more prominent by recourse to such accompaniment patterns as
the Alberti bass. All in all, the emerging galant idiom, found in the
work of J.C. Bach, Boccherini, Galuppi, Rutini, Sammartini and
Schobert, and in early Haydn and early Mozart, captured a
deliberately cultivated superficiality of utterance.
The high Classical style has been described by William Newman
as the peak at which the ideal and most purposeful co-ordination
of Classic style traits obtained (NewmanSCE, 3/1983, p.124).
Among its features are a clearer sense of individuality and
originality in the handling of the elements of the Classical language
than in the galant idiom. This expresses itself most obviously in
thematic terms a striking opening such as that of Haydns
hXVI:52 or Mozarts k457 although such opening gambits as the
opposition of a forte unison statement (often triadic) and a piano
chordal answer (Mozarts k309/284b and k576, for instance) is not
infrequent. Other fingerprints of the high Classical style include the
reintegration of counterpoint with periodic phrasing (Haydn,
hXVI:47; Mozart, k533, k570); audacious form schemes (as in
Mozarts k311/284c, whose exposition themes are reversed in the
recapitulation); wide-ranging tonal schemes, leading to expansion
of movement length (Haydn, hXVI:50 in C, hXVI:52; Mozart, k570;
Beethoven, op.2 no.3); use of harmonic colour (especially
chromaticism) for effect (Haydn, hXVI:20 in C minor, hXVI:52 in E ;
Mozart, k333/315c; Beethoven, op.27 no.2 one of a pair of
sonatas entitled quasi una fantasia, partly on the grounds that the
movements are designed as sections which follow on in sequence
with scarcely any break, but partly also because of recourse to
keyboard textures and idioms more closely associated with the
fantasia genre than with a sonata) and use of irregular phraselengths (Haydn, hXVI:45 in E ; Mozart, k309/284b opening
themes). Texturally, the high Classical sonata typically returns to a
more fully polyphonic norm in which counterpoint plays an
increasingly significant thematic role (Haydn,hXVI:52; Clementi,
op.40 no.1, op.50 no.1; Beethoven, op.2 no.2, op.54); elsewhere

the texture is enlivened by more confident use of a wider keyboard


range than was normal in the earlier galant style, sometimes
stressing textural variety so prominently as to make it a defining
force within the movement structure (Haydn, hXVI:49; Mozart,
k457; Beethoven, op.10 no.3, op.13).
At the end of the Classical period the sonata, as hinted earlier,
launched itself out of the drawing-room and on to the concert
platform. The middle-period sonatas of Clementi and, especially,
Beethoven secured the place of the sonata as a public statement in
which the composer as individual genius chose to express some of
his innermost thoughts. From the early 19th century the sonata trod
the parallel paths of grand virtuosity and inward contemplation.
Occasionally, as in Beethovens op.106 (the Hammerklavier), both
types meet on a grand scale, leading to the sublime juxtaposition of
extreme sound worlds. Both Clementi and Beethoven tend in their
sonatas to devote considerable effort to the working out of motifs.
(That much is well-known in Beethovens case from examination of
his sketches.) Clementis op.50 set (published in 1821), including
the programmatic Didone abbandonata (no.3 in G minor), is
notable for its concentration of motivic usage, frequently over
protracted time-spans, as also for complexity of tonal and phrasestructure. A tendency towards the incorporation of quasi-orchestral
sonorities at the keyboard is evident in Beethovens later sonatas
(opp.81a, 109, 111), although it is only one trait among several that
emerge at this stage: others include a renewed interest in fugue
(opp.101, 110, 111) and variation chains (opp.109, 111), along with
idiosyncratic keyboard patterns such as high-pitched trills as a
tonally stabilizing background to culminating thematic statements
(as in the finales of opp.109 and 111). At this late stage in the
Classical sonata's evolution the centre of gravity no longer
necessarily resides in the first movement, as was generally the
case in Haydns and Mozarts sonatas. This trend is especially
notable in Beethovens work. From the earliest set, op.2, the slow
movements clearly function as highly expressive individual
statements, rather than mere contrast to the quicker outer
movements (those of op.10 no.3 and op.57 are particularly
outstanding examples). In Beethovens later sonatas the work
becomes a journey, no single movement making sense outside the
whole context (op.90, for instance, in two movements of
contrasting dark and light character; also opp.106, 109 and 110).
In opp.109 and 111 the variation finales (containing, perhaps, a
wider range of expression than any previous sonata-form first
movement in the Classical sonata literature) truly become the
emotional heart of their respective works.
Sonata
3. 19th century after Beethoven.
(i) Historical overview.
(ii) Genre versus form.
(iii) Compositional practice.

(iv) Publishing.
(v) Performance.
Sonata, 3: 19th century after Beethoven
(i) Historical overview.
Beethoven's
sonatas
wielded
enormous
influence
on
compositional, pedagogical and performing practices throughout
the 19th century. His towering achievements in the solo and duo
sonata, as well as the string quartet and the symphony, set a
standard that few composers could hope to meet. Sonatas in
imitation of Beethoven's nevertheless abound, along with analytical
and pedagogical publications on Beethoven's own sonatas. His
sonatas featured prominently in the piano recitals that developed
as a genre from the late 1830s, with a canon of favourites
established early on (although occasionally subject to the virtuoso
embellishments that were popular before 1850). By 1861, pianists
were performing Beethoven sonatas in complete cycles, a practice
that of course survives to this day.
Austria and Germany remained especially important centres of
sonata production in the wake of Beethoven, although French and
British composers also produced large numbers. Beethoven's
influence encouraged a new appreciation of the sonata as one of
the most distinguished forms (Schumann); it thus became a staple
of piano solo and ensemble recitals alike, its increasing
significance reflecting the collective predilections of performers,
publishers, students and amateur groups, as well as their often
sophisticated audiences. In The Sonata since Beethoven (1969,
3/1983), William S. Newman claimed that the main cornerstones
of the Romantic sonata were Schubert, Schumann, Chopin and
Brahms, the last of these being the most important and central
contributor to the sonata since Beethoven. All told, he identified
some 625 European and American composers who produced
sonatas, in three overlapping phases: 180050 (during which
Dussek, Weber, Schubert and Mendelssohn were the key
practitioners); 184085, which started with an alleged decline in the
quality and quantity of sonata production, followed after a decade
by a revival of interest (a period dominated by Schumann, Chopin,
Liszt and Brahms); and finally about 18751914 (when the later
Brahms, Reger, Franck, Faur, Saint-Sans, d'Indy, Grieg,
Medtner, Rachmaninoff and MacDowell were pre-eminent).
While Newman regarded 19th-century sonatas as a conservative
facet of Romantic music history, Charles Rosen (1980) asserted
that compositional styles after 1830 were not especially suitable
for dealing with sonata form, which is largely irrelevant to the
history of 19th- and 20th-century styles, neither generating nor
being altered by them. (Richard Strauss for one complained in
1888 of a gradually ever increasing contradiction between the
musical-poetic content that I want to convey [and] the ternary
sonata form that has come down to us from the classical
composers, a form in his opinion no longer capable of conveying

the highest, most glorious content found in Beethoven's sonatas.)


Conversely, Anatole Leikin (1986) identified a dissolution of
normative sonata structure in the music of Schubert, Schumann
and Chopin, among others, where the elements of the sonata
archetype blend together, the borders between them blurring or
disappearing altogether partly because of the influence of other
formal paradigms.
Sonata, 3: 19th century after Beethoven
(ii) Genre versus form.
The sonata as genre must be distinguished from the sonata as
form. Arguably, any work bearing the title sonata belongs to the
sonata genre, as indeed did such disparate works as the
symphony, fantasy and concerto, according to early 19th-century
parlance. As generic categories hardened, however, composers
and writers alike employed more precise terminology, while
descriptive labels such as brillante, dramatique and even
rotique were appended to the titles of published sonatas by
composers or (more often) publishers, either to denote character or
simply to enhance appeal.
Sonata-derived procedures and formal properties influenced a vast
number of pieces not explicitly designated sonatas for instance,
Chopin's four ballades, which demonstrate a unique application
and understanding of the sonata principle as inherited from 18thcentury masters. The essence of such a sonata principle was a
(usually harmonic) opposition or polarity set up early in a work,
which, after a heightening of resultant tensions, experienced
eventual resolution and reconciliation in the last third or so of the
piece, principally through tonal adjustments. Key 19th-century
specimens, as well as 18th-century sonatas, depend on that
fundamental dialectic, notwithstanding the increasingly schematic
formulae developed by theorists from the 1790s onwards and
applied by composers with growing frequency, often at the expense
of the music's life.
Francesco Galeazzi (1796) was one of the first to adumbrate a
standard sonata form (not referred to as such, however; see
Churgin, 1968), while Reicha's grande coupe binaire (Trait de
haute composition musicale, 18246) anticipates many of the
features in the most important 19th-century definition of sonata
form, that proposed in Czerny's School of Practical Composition
op.600 (published in German in 1849 and in English translation in
1848, several years after the third volume of A.B. Marx's seminal
treatise Die Lehre von der musikalischen Komposition, which
explicitly addresses Sonatenform). Outlining the basic
requirements of a sonata form, Czerny advanced a prescriptive
model based less on harmonic relationships than on thematic
ones, and although many of the terms in current usage (e.g.
exposition, recapitulation and even sonata form itself) did not
feature in the English translation of Czerny's op.600, its influence

on subsequent theoretical thought and actual compositional


practice can hardly be overstated. (According to Rosen, sonata
form was fixed once and for all after Czerny: even Brahms could
not change the form as Haydn or C.P.E. Bach had.)
It is fascinating to trace the process by which textbook sonata form
came to challenge or replace the supple sonata principle in the
hands of composers. Although contemporary dictionaries and other
publications paid little heed to sonata design (George Macfarren's
On the Structure of a Sonata, 1871, is a rare exception), there was
(in Newman's words) an increasing recognition and description of
an explicit sonata form by theorists and other writers which had
the levelling effect, at least among the weaker, less imaginative
composers, of rigidifying the once fluid form and making it into a
stereotype. One of the great paradoxes of music history is that this
new model dominated the vast and highly conventionalized output
of most mid- to late 19th-century sonata composers, while the
older, even atavistic sonata principle remained potent in the music
of their (relatively few) progressive counterparts.
Sonata, 3: 19th century after Beethoven
(iii) Compositional practice.
This domination of the conventional caused despairing critics to
predict the sonata's demise. Schumann for one noted in 1839 that
most sonatas by younger composers were little more than a study
in form hardly born out of a strong inner compulsion [It]
seems that the form has run its course. Typical sonatas reveal a
slavish adherence to a predetermined, formulaic and essentially
static tonal architecture, as well as an emphasis, sometimes
excessive, on melodic and thematic material generally lacking the
potential for truly dramatic development. Often the music seems
stillborn and predictable, falling short of the ideals associated with
this noble musical form (Schumann) a form which, according to
Rosen, was the vehicle of the sublime after Beethoven, indeed the
principal means by which the highest musical ambitions could be
realized.
Nevertheless, the best 19th-century sonatas contain many novel
features as well as variants on compositional procedures found in
Classical works. Such innovations include a fluid, expansive
melodic handling in which symmetrical periodicity is often sacrificed
to broader gestures at various hierarchical levels; a richer harmonic
and tonal palette, as well as rapid and extreme shifts between
harmonic regions; a pervasive exploitation of motif at the same
time as an eclectic blend of disparate materials (a technique
possibly deriving from improvisatory practices, which certainly
influenced Beethoven's middle-period and late sonatas);
overarching cyclical tendencies, whereby reminiscences occur, as
in the Rckblick from Brahms's op.5, or such that each movement
is based on a transformation of the themes of the others (Rosen);
and a fusion of the typical four-movement structure into one

amalgam, most notably in Liszt's B minor Sonata, which is often


referred to as a double-function form. Although (as Newman
observed) no front-rank Romantic sonata was identified with a
programme, even a vague one, by its composer, a greater range
of characterization was achieved through operatic, folk-derived,
hymn-like and highly chromatic idioms lavishly and imaginatively
used in altogether new contexts.
Most 19th-century sonatas have four movements, the first of which
typically subscribes to the sonata-form model, at least in more
conventional repertory. But in progressive sonatas, especially
Brahms's, the blurring between sectional divisions noted above
often occurs, with considerable development outside the formal
development section, and an influx of expositional traits into the
recapitulation (Leikin). As for the exposition itself, the opposition or
polarity so vital to the 18th-century sonata principle is often
replaced (in Rosen's words) by only a sense of distance, possibly
being further weakened by a chromatic blurring of the approach to
the second tonality (usually the dominant in major-key movements,
often the relative major in minor-key ones). Rosen maintained that,
in many Romantic sonatas, exposition as opposition and
recapitulation as resolution have almost disappeared, because the
end-weighted structural thrust of the prevalent plot archetype
overshadows and even obliterates the climax point at the close of
the development section as found in most Classical sonatas. The
internal compositional dynamic is additionally altered by the virtual
elimination of full-fledged themes as tonal and melodic landmarks,
explained by Newman as an extreme consequence of continuous
motivic writing.
Whereas the expectations for first movements proved constraining
to many composers, not least Brahms, second movements offered
a broad spectrum of formal and expressive possibilities. Typical
designs included binary or ternary forms, a compact rondo form
(ABABA) and a theme-and-variations format, taken at a
moderate tempo more often than a slow one. Third movements
were usually lively scherzos, whether or not they bore that title,
while finales tended to have a rondo construction, although other
formal templates were also used. Newman remarked that the
finale posed the chief structural problem, one main reason
apparently being a felt need to alter, intensify, and, unfortunately,
overcomplicate the traditionally light, gay rondo sufficiently for it to
carry more weight. In Brahms's case, the tempo, drive, and
melodic intensity of the finale are sufficient to achieve a clear peak
in the over-all profile, despite the greater weight given to the slow
and scherzo movements in his piano and duo sonatas.
Practical considerations often inspired the composition of sonatas,
whether particular performance opportunities, the invitation of a
publisher or performer, or the desire to write for students. For
younger composers, the sonata offered a perfect first work to
launch a career in print: hence Schumann's comments above.

Sonatas also appealed to many women composers (perhaps


because of a generic respectability), among them Louise Farrenc,
Fanny Mendelssohn, Clara Schumann, Luise Adolpha Le Beau,
Ccile Chaminade and Ethel Smyth. As already suggested,
sonatas were often written as teaching-pieces, perhaps in an oldfashioned pedagogic style or a somewhat reduced format for
instance, a petite sonatine as opposed to the grande sonate played
in public by a virtuoso pianist.
Newman's analysis of the 19th-century sonata settings identified in
Hofmeister's
Musikalisch-literarischer
Monatsbericht
neuer
Musikalien reveals that 41% were for solo piano, 21% for piano
and violin, 11% for piano duet, 6% for piano and flute, and 5% for
piano and cello, with other combinations occurring less frequently.
That the largest group was for solo piano is hardly surprising, given
the instrument's central importance throughout the era. But all told,
so-called accompanied sonatas for piano plus one other
instrument (which accompanied the piano) form a considerable
corpus. In general, the piano part retained the prominence it
enjoyed in early duo sonatas, to the point that the titles to Brahms's
sonatas continued to list the piano first. Composers of violinpiano
sonatas include Schumann, Franck and Faur, while Hummel,
Onslow and Rubinstein wrote works for viola and piano. Sonatas
for cello and piano were composed by Mendelssohn, Chopin,
Brahms, Saint-Sans, Hiller, Reger, Vierne and Faur; for clarinet
and piano by Brahms, Draeseke and Stanford; and for flute and
piano by Kuhlau, Reinecke and Piern. Other sonata settings exist
for horn and piano, oboe and piano, bassoon and piano,
unaccompanied violin, organ and two pianos. Arrangements or
transcriptions of solo sonatas for two or more instruments were
also concocted, both to expand ensemble possibilities and to
increase the market for new scores. For instance, the Marche
funbre from Chopin's op.35 appeared in well over 100 different
formats, including settings for two pianos eight hands, salon
orchestra, and a trio comprising harmonium, violin and cello.
Sonata, 3: 19th century after Beethoven
(iv) Publishing.
Leipzig, Paris and London were the main publication centres for
19th-century sonatas, which tended to be produced in very small
print runs (as was also the case with other genres) and
occasionally on a subscription basis. The parts in duo sonatas
were published separately until fairly late in the century, the piano
part having at most a short cue from the other instrument. Newman
observed that the sonata has always been one of the easier
genres to print because so few instruments have been involved,
but he quoted Gottfried Fink's complaint from 1839 that only the
smallest number of new sonatas find a publisher nowadays an
odd remark, which does not square with the evidence. Not only
were arrangements devised to appeal to wider audiences, but
publishers resorted to elaborate covers and fancy titles to promote

sales, in addition to publishing individual sonata movements


separately. Guides on performance also appeared in profusion, of
which perhaps the most notable is Czerny's ber den richtigen
Vortrag der smtlichen Beethoven'schen Klavierwerke, which
discusses articulation, tempo and additional matters with reference
to Beethoven's piano sonatas, among other works.
Sonata, 3: 19th century after Beethoven
(v) Performance.
As already noted, sonatas featured prominently in piano recitals in
the late 1830s and beyond, such as those of Liszt, Clara Wieck
and Moscheles in the early part of the era; Rubinstein and Blow in
the mid- to late 19th century; and Paderewski, Rachmaninoff and
Hofmann at the end of the century. Sonatas were played by such
violinists as Joachim, Ysae and Kreisler (Paganini performed only
his own highly idiosyncratic examples) and by the cellist Piatti.
Public performances of ensemble sonatas took place in all the
leading centres, particularly Paris and London, promoted by
concert series, music societies, educational establishments and
even the musical press. Amateurs also performed sonatas in more
private settings, although many preferred the lightest, frothiest
examples (Newman) rather than the relatively serious and
technically difficult works more typical of the genre. The supremely
challenging sonatas of Beethoven were frequently played by
serious students and professionals alike (for instance in allBeethoven recitals), thus indicating his seminal influence up to the
end of the 19th century and beyond.
Sonata
4. 20th century.
The distinctiveness of the sonata as a genre had, by the end of the
20th century, all but disappeared. The title had lost its traditional
implication of a work in several movements for piano alone or with
another instrument. A great many neo-classical sonatas follow
these conventions, but, as the term neo-classical itself implies,
continuity of sonata writing was lost, and perhaps only in Soviet
Russia was any new tradition established. It is true that Beethoven
has often been cited in connection with piano sonatas by Tippett
(no.3, 19723), Boulez (no.2, 19478) and Barraqu (195052),
but that means only that those composers approached the solo
piano medium with something of the strength and seriousness of
Beethoven; the references in the Boulez piece to the
Hammerklavier form relationships with a specific model rather than
with a tradition. Paradoxically, the three masters of the Second
Viennese School, for whom sonata form was a constant guide, left
only one sonata among them: Bergs op.1 for piano (19078).
At the beginning of the century, however, the Brahmsian sonata
tradition was being perpetuated in the work of Reger. His later
compositions include several sonatas for string instrument and
piano in which allusion to Bach, formally and contrapuntally,

increased, and that tendency is certainly no less obvious in the


seven sonatas for violin alone, op.91 (1905), the first significant
sonatas for solo melody instrument since the 18th century. Thus
Regers sonatas were not only a culmination of the 19th-century
tradition: they looked forward to the classicism, eventually neoclassicism, which was to play an important part in sonata writing for
the next 50 years. A similar place, though in a different tradition,
might be ascribed to the three late, finely and sparely wrought
sonatas of Faur: the Violin Sonata no.2 op.108 (191617), the
Cello Sonata no.1 op.109 (1917), and the Cello Sonata no.2
op.117 (1921).
Debussys three late sonatas (191517) also show a purification of
style, but here there is little reference to formal archetypes. What is
involved is rather a clarification of Debussys own, individual
technique, removing from it any literary or pictorial association
(although he gave the unofficial subtitle Pierrot angry with the
moon to the Cello Sonata). In the second piece he abandoned
conventional sonata scoring, writing the work for flute, viola and
harp; that innovation opened the way for such unusually scored
sonatas as Ravels for violin and cello (192022) and Poulencs for
two clarinets (1918), clarinet and bassoon (1922) and brass trio
(1922).
If Debussys sonatas refer much more to his own earlier work than
to any tradition, those of Skryabin and Ives are equally personal.
The late piano sonatas of Skryabin (the last, no.10, dates from
1913) are single-movement structures in which tonal modulation
has almost no functional part; in expressive terms they relate to a
never completed cataclysmic mystery. Ives, who left four
numbered sonatas for violin and piano and two for piano, used the
sonata as a container for reminiscences of popular music,
responses to literature and nature, and so on. The movements
cannot normally be related to traditional formal models, although
the total form may be: the four movements of the Piano Sonata
no.2 Concord (c191419), for example, include a scherzo as the
second and a slow movement as the third.
The various sonatas produced by Debussy, Skryabin and Ives in
the decade 191020 had already broken almost completely with
19th-century standards of sonata writing. In the next decade there
was a widespread attempt to recover tradition, but not directly;
instead of following Brahms and Reger, composers looked back to
Beethoven and, more commonly, still further. Stravinsky claimed
that, in his Piano Sonata 1924, he used the term sonata in its
original meaning therefore, I did not regard myself as restricted
by any predetermined form; nevertheless, he admitted to having
made a study of Beethovens sonatas prior to the composition, and
there are distinct traces of Beethoven as well as the Baroque in the
work. By the time of the brief Sonata for Two Pianos (19434)
Stravinsky was even able to use sonata and variation forms.

Bartk also made a return to Baroque counterpoint in his Piano


Sonata (1926), where again the shadow of Beethoven can be felt;
but the musics rhythmic and harmonic aggressiveness are quite
new. The two sonatas for violin and piano (1921, 1922) are more
spontaneous in form and feeling, and remarkable for the
independence of their instrumental parts. All three of Bartks
sonatas of the 1920s open with movements in sonata form, as do
the Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion (1937), and the Solo
Violin Sonata (1944), where the influence of the Bachian sonata is
strongest. Other composers who could be said, like Stravinsky and
Bartk, to have looked back a century or more in writing sonatas
included Poulenc, Martin and Hindemith. Hindemith, most of
whose works in the genre are in the smoothed neo-classical style
of his later years, left sonatas for most of the instruments in current
use, including harp, english horn and tuba.
What might be called the neo-classical sonata was also widely
practised in the USA after 1930, for example Sessionss Piano
Sonata no.1 (192730). In Sessionss later sonatas, however, the
neo-classical frame became hidden in an increasingly complex and
individual style; and a similar development in Carters music took
place most swiftly at the time of his three sonatas: for piano (1945
6), for cello and piano (1948) and for flute, oboe, cello and
harpsichord (1952). The sonata movements of Cages Sonatas
and Interludes for prepared piano (19468) are in a two-part,
pseudo-Baroque form, yet the oriental modality and character of
the music make the description neo-classical less than helpful.
Some of Prokofievs sonatas might with more justice be given that
appellation, but those he wrote in Soviet Russia (Piano Sonatas
nos.69, 193947; Violin Sonata no.1, 193846; Flute Sonata,
1943; Cello Sonata, 1949) lack the conscious archaism or irony of
neo-classicism, perhaps because the model they seem to suppose
a 19th-century Russian sonata tradition never existed.
Instead they established a tradition of their own, and led towards
Shostakovich, whose Viola Sonata (1975) is among those late
works in which a sense of the ageing of the musical tradition has a
personal reality. Being at once weighty with history and individual in
presentation (as the testament of a soloist), the sonata was a
natural form for composers who, for whatever reason, felt kinship
with the past in terms both of its achievements and of its
philosophy of personal expression. Not only Shostakovichs
sonatas can be understood in this light, but also Barraqus Piano
Sonata.
Other composers aligned their works rather with earlier traditions:
Ferneyhoughs plurally titled Sonatas for string quartet (1967) is
partly a response to Purcell, and Daviess St Michael Sonata for
wind (1957), a sonata of a Gabrielian sort (although later sonatas
by this composer are aesthetically more on the Shostakovich
model). Or the title may be used simply to indicate that the work
concerned is for a soloist, abstract and serious, without any

implications for its form. Boulezs three piano sonatas (1946, 1947
8 and 19557) show a progression from traditional patterns (of two
movements in no.1, of four in the post-Hammerklavier no.2) to one
determinedly new. Ligetis Viola Sonata (19914), as a set of
inventions for unaccompanied soloist, as assertive statement, as
virtuoso showpiece and as a sequence of forms not beholden to
the past, fits into many of the sonatas histories.
Sonata
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