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Sonata-Allegro Form


Sonata Allegro form was a development of the classical era. It represents a more open form than many of the earlier Baroque forms such as fugues, rondeau form, etc.

While there is a formula that can be applied, there was not a rigid, formal concept for the form. Rather it evolved over the classical era and beyond.

Haydn was one of the early exponents of this form. It was named "Sonata Allegro," because the final Allegro movement of a Sonata was most often created in this form. It is by no means restricted to this general rule, however. In fact there are no hard and fast rules in writing a Sonata Allegro form. However many trends can be attributed to the form generally

Sonata Allegro form can simplistically be described as an "ABA'" form.
The first A section is called the "Exposition." ( This section is repeated verbatim in classical performance, actually making the overall form "AABA'").
The B section, or "Development" follows the Exposition. It usually uses some material from the Exposition, but in a more or less radically altered way.
In the A' section or "Recapitulation," the A material returns relatively intact.
Each of these sections has a relatively complex internal pattern as follows:

The Exposition

states the main thematic elements and has its own internal form as follows:

1. A Primary key section which contains:

2. A Related key section which contains:

EXAMPLE- Haydn's Symphony 104 Exposition



The Development

is an open and free-form section of the Sonata Allegro movement, usually based on thematic materials from the Exposition.
The Development can:

EXAMPLE- Haydn's Symphony 104 Development


The Recapitulation

returns to the material in the Exposition.
However the Recapitulation is almost always different from the Exposition in that it remains in the home key (i.e., second theme stays in the home key rather than changing).
The recapitulation can also sometimes be varied from the Exposition by

EXAMPLE - Recapitulation, Haydn's Symphony 104

Listen to the whole movement HERE.

References: (1) Frumm, Sonata as Dramatic Procedure , MQ
(2) Cone, Musical Form and Musical Performance , Norton, Chap. III

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