[Pt. V Proj.1] – The Classical Era- Project 1- Sonata Form ~ Exercise 5.0: sonata form sections

[Pt. V Proj. 1] – Exercise 5.0- sonata form sections. In its essential components sonata form is in three parts consisting of: An exposition. A development. A recapitulation. Some scholars argue the form is in two parts – referring to versions of the form where the exposition and the development+recapitulation are repeated wholesale thereby dividing the form into two parts. But, for us, we can consider sonata form as being in three sections, as long as we remember that in analysing music, as is the case with any art form, findings may be open to interpretation and difference of opinions. Exposition: This is where the musical ideas of the movement are presented. There are two main areas in which the theme or themes of the movement are presented. The first, which we may call the first subject area is in the tonic key. The second, the second subject area, is in a related key, often the dominant, or the relative major if the tonic is a minor key. There may be a transition passage between the sections, where the music modulates from one key to the next. Transitions may be long, or short, or may hardly exist, if at all. The themes are generally characterised distinctly, by key and by mood, to make them identifiably different. By the end of the exposition the result is that all the themes of the movement have been presented and we have moved from one key to another. We are now ready for the development. Development: In broad terms, in this section the composition’s themes are heard in different keys, and are altered in some way, for example, broken up or expanded, to create the desired effect. The treatment of the themes may produce an intensely dramatic development section or may result in a more relaxed effect. The manner and technique of development is unique to each composer, and indeed to each composition. The number of different attitudes to development shows the diversity of ways the form is achieved among composers. Generally speaking, the development is the heart of a composition, where the ‘story’ is developed and worked out. The development eventually leads to the structural highpoint of the movement: the recapitulation. Recapitulation: The recapitulation generally marks the return to the tonic key. Here, again broadly speaking, the themes from the exposition come back, all in the tonic key. The themes may return in the exact order in which they appeared in the exposition, but this is by no means compulsory. The essential point here is that second subject themes which originally were not in the tonic key, say, in the dominant, now return in the tonic. It follows that transition passages from the exposition are tonally adjusted to facilitate this. A coda in which occurs further development of themes, or even the introduction of new musical ideas, may follow the recapitulation. By the end of the recapitulation, or if there is one, the coda, a sense of closure, and even conclusion, is achieved for the entire movement. Referring to the outline above, make notes in your learning log of the main sections of sonata form, what happens in them and how they interrelate. You’ll need these notes later so try to include all the main points.

Sections of sonata form

The first section of the sonata form is called the exposition where the main ideas in terms of themes and motifs are first presented. The exposition is usually subdivided into two sections, the first is in the tonic key whereas the second (or second subject area) tends to be in the dominant or otherwise relative key. The second subject area repeats some of the first subject area themes in the new key and also has new themes introduced.

After the exposition there is a development section, usually in a contrasting key. The development section is generally arrived at through a transition section, which travels harmonically, modulating towards the key of the development section. As the name suggests this is the section in which the piece is further developed and explores new tonal areas.

The third section, also arrived at via a modulating transition, is called a recapitulation and it returns to presenting all the themes in the tonic key. It is sometimes ended with a coda.