Introduction to Classical Music/Forms

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The term musical form refers to two concepts:

the type of composition - a symphony or a concerto
the structure of a piece - binary form, sonata form, fugue, etc.

Sonata[edit]

Sonata form is characterized by tonal movement and consists of an exposition, development and recapitulation section. Sonata form is used in most first movements of sonatas and symphonies. It is considered the most important principle of musical form.

In the "Classical" period, the title "sonata" is typically given to a work composed of three or four movements. Often sonata form refers just to the structure of an individual movement. Outline of sonata form

Introduction -The introduction increases the weight of the movement, and also permits the composer to begin the exposition with a theme that would be too light to start on its own, as in Haydn's Symphony No. 103 ("Drumroll").
Exposition - The exposition is primariy thematic material for the movement
Development -The development generally starts in the same key as the exposition ended, and may move through many different keys during its course.
Recapitulation - The Recapitulation is an altered repeat of the exposition
Coda - Codas may be quite brief tailpieces, or they may be very long and elaborate. A famous example of the more extended type is the coda to the first movement of Beethoven's Eroica Symphony (no. 3 in E flat).

Sonata sample: Sonata No. 1 in F Minor, Op. 2 No. 1 - I. Allegro

Symphony[edit]

A symphony is a musical composition usually for orchestras. Many symphonies are tonal works in four movements with the first in the sonata form, and this is often described by music theorists as the structure of a "classical" symphony.

The word "symphony" is from the Greek word, Συμφωνία, meaning "sounding together". In the 17th century, for most of the Baroque period, the terms symphony and sinfonia were used for a range of different compositions, including instrumental pieces used in operas, sonatas and concertos — usually part of a larger work.

The opera sinfonia, or Italian overture had, by the 18th century, a standard structure of three contrasting movements: fast; slow; fast and dance-like. It is this form that is often considered as the direct forerunner of the orchestral symphony. The terms "overture", "symphony" and "sinfonia" were widely regarded as interchangeable for much of the 18th century.

Symphony sample: Symphony No. 8 in F Major, Op. 93 - I. Allegro vivace e con brio

Concerto[edit]

The term concerto usually refers to a musical work in which one solo instrument is accompanied by an orchestra. The concerto arose in the Baroque with the concerto grosso, which contrasted a small group of instruments with the rest of the orchestra. While the concerto grosso is confined to the Baroque period, the solo concerto has continued as a vital musical force to this day.

The Baroque concerto[edit]

In the late 16th century there was often no clear distinction made between a concerto and a sinfonia. Both of these terms were even used throughout the 17th century, in Italy, to describe vocal music with instrumental accompaniment; Giovanni Gabrieli published motets using either of these terms indiscriminately.

Starting at about 1675, composers started to write works for divided orchestra, often called concerto grosso. The smaller division, which was effectively a group of soloists, was referred to in these works as the concertino and the accompanying instruments were called the ripieno, while tutti was used to indicate the two groups playing simultaneously.

The Classical concerto[edit]

The concertos of Bach’s sons are the best links between those of the Baroque period and those of Mozart. Bach’s keyboard concertos contain some brilliant soloistic writing. Some of them have movements that run into one another without a break, and there are frequent cross-movement thematic references.

Mozart, as a boy, made arrangements for harpsichord and orchestra of three sonata movements by Johann Christian Bach. By the time he was twenty, he was able to write concerto ritornelli that gave the orchestra admirable opportunity for asserting its character in an exposition with some five or six sharply contrasted themes, before the soloist enters to elaborate on the material. He wrote one concerto each for flute, oboe (later rearranged for flute and known as Flute Concerto No. 2), clarinet, and bassoon, four for horn, a Concerto for Flute, Harp and Orchestra, and a Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra.

Concerto sample: Concerto in A Minor, Op. 102 'Double Concerto' - I. Allegro

Etude[edit]

An étude (a French word meaning study) is a short musical composition designed to provide practice in the performance of a solo instrument. For example, Frédéric Chopin's étude Op. 25 No. 1 trains pianists to play rapid parallel thirds.

The études that are most widely admired are those which transcend their practical function and come to be appreciated simply as music. For example, Chopin's études are considered not just technically difficult, but also musically very powerful and expressive.

Etude sample: Étude No. 1 in A Flat Major, WoO


Overture[edit]

An overture (from the French word, ouverture, meaning opening) in music is the instrumental introduction. It is frequently an opening to a larger dramatic work such as an opera. Earlier usage of the word also referred to collections of movements, known as suites. Later works, such as Beethoven's overture Leonora No 3 mark a transition between the concept of overture as introduction to a dramatic entertainment, and musical forms such as the symphonic poem, which are work .

Overture sample: The Marriage of Figaro - Overture