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Sonata Allegro Form and the History of the Symphony

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Whitney George

on 1 August 2017

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Transcript of Sonata Allegro Form and the History of the Symphony

Sonata Allegro Form
& the History of the Symphony

is a developmental form, where the themes undergo changes and manipulations known as ‘developments’
this movement is the intellectual and emotional core of the work, and always the most important of the movements in a symphony
the movement consists of two principle melodies that set up musical contrasts in some/all of the following ways:
thematic material is starkly different (usually a duality)
key centers/tonality (major/minor)
rhythm (simple/compound)
tone color/instrumentation
The History of the Symphony
The Classical Symphony
the orchestra was defined as the largest chamber ensemble during the Baroque Era, and became one of the most dominant ensembles from the Classical Era to the Late Romantic Era (and still remains quite popular today)
The Form of the Symphony
the standard form for a work for full orchestra was known as the symphonic form and consisted of the following four movements, each with a specific form
Movement No. 1: Sonata Form, Moderate Tempo
Movement No. 2: Contrast- Slow Tempo, quiet mood
Movement No. 3: Utilizes Dance Rhythms- Minuet
Movement No. 4: Fast---Sometimes Faster than the 1st
of any of the movements, the first movement of the symphony is considered the most important, and is usually in a developmental form known as sonata-allegro form
General scheme of the Sonata-Allegro Form

On the large scale, it’s an ABA form, on the smaller scale, each of these larger sections has a smaller form
Exposition- A
basic material is presented (“exposed”)
first theme- A
bridge- TR
second theme- B
Development- B
heightens tonal tension by modulating to different key areas
often utilize counterpoint
the area where the music sounds unstable
retransition- bridges the end of the development to the recapitulation
Recapitulation- A
’a “step-by-step” review, where the initial themes are presented once more in the tonic key
coda- an optional ending
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
first theme is played twice (I)
transition to second theme
second theme- new key (V)
Starts with two prominent chords
fragmentation of the melody
Both themes played in the tonic key (I)
Short, but adds dramatic effect
‘Symphony No. 40 in G minor’- Movement No. 1 (1788)
The Early Romantic Symphony
Ludwig van Beethoven
starts out with the dramatic motif that soon expands into the 1st theme area after the first 4 bars
1st theme- must more militant rhythms, in a minor key
uses imitation to help expand the first theme until they form a unified theme
a transition is signaled by the horn section, which introduces the 2nd theme- much more flowing rhythms, in a major key
like the initial statement of the 1st theme, relies heavily on imitation
as compared to Mozart, travels to more distant key areas
Both themes played in their original keys
an odd (!) interruption of the recapitulation with a short oboe cadenza (solo)
quite long for a coda, and uses fragments of the 1st theme area
‘Symphony No. 5 in C minor’- Movement No. 1 (1804-1808)
The Late Romantic Symphony
Franz Schubert
starts with a long introduction in the lowest string voices (‘cellos and basses) to help set the mood of the 1st theme
1st theme- lyrical, in minor key, first played by the oboe
uses imitation to help expand the first theme until they form a unified theme
2nd theme- also lyrical, but in a major key. primarily played by the string family
very unusually begins with the 2nd theme area instead of the 1st
Both themes, but in rather strange key relationships that are far removed from the original key
reintroduces the introduction material
‘Symphony No. 8 in B minor (The Unfinished)’- Movement No. 1 (1822-?)
The Hero's Journey
The hero's journey template has a lot of similarities to the epic sonata-allegro form, which essentially contains three large sections:
The Exposition = The Departure
The Development = The Initiation
The Recapitulation = The Return
(a super nifty chart from Wikipedia, which neatly summarizes some key interpretations of the hero's journey by different authors)
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