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Okay. Let's take Mozart's

B-flat major sonata, K. 333, as an example.
The first theme comes inevitably in the
tonic, B-flat.
The theme goes nowhere. It begins in B-flat major,
and it ends on B-flat major. It has no role other
than to establish the tonality firmly,
that and to be extremely beautiful.
But by the time we reach the second theme,
we are established in the dominant, F.
This has two roles:
to establish the dominant, but also to
contrast in character.
Where the first theme is totally edgeless,
entirely lyrical,
this one has more backbone, a gallantry
behind it.
I don't want to overstate this.
There are certainly other sonatas with
more opposed first and second themes.
But again, no two sonatas conform to the
model in
exactly the same way.
This is just more evidence of that.
So really, the two oppositions are
connected to one another.
We have left home, harmonically, and
there have been
changes in the character of the music as a
result, consequences.
The sonata form is three-part: exposition,
development, and recapitulation.
These two themes nearly always appear in
the exposition, and
they form its basis.
Next comes the development, a.k.a., the
wilderness period.
This is very often the most fascinating
part of a sonata movement, because it is
always the least settled.
We inevitably begin away from home, on the
dominant, where we left off, and then we
go fishing around for the tonic.
I won't play the whole thing.
But it's important
to know that we cycle through many keys,
not just F major,
but F minor, C minor, G minor,
before finally resolving dominant tonic
back home.
And whatever happened in the development,
and if you look at the sonata movements of
Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, there can be
enormously wide variety of harmonic events
and developments.

The return of the tonic is always

preceded immediately by the dominant.
The opposition of the two is once
again reinforced.
We are reminded that whatever else has
happened, wherever else we've been, this,
the dominant, is the chord that led us
away in the first place.
We're now in the final section: the recapitulation, and
it does literally recapitulate the events of the exposition,
with one key difference:
we do not leave the tonic.
That means that the first theme is
unchanged from the exposition.
But the second theme, which was
initially in a foreign country,
now returns home.
The arrival of the second theme in the "correct,"
or home, key is what I always
think of as the exhale moment in the sonata form-the moment when we feel a kind of security
that the conflict has been resolved.
Just in moving the key from the dominant
where it
originally was, back to the tonic, its
character has been altered.
That is the miracle of diatonicism and of
the sonata form.
Just as a side note, I've referred to the
form as being a pure invention of the
classical era.
Now, it's worth noting that the model of
movement moving
to the dominant, coming to a stop there,
and then going back to
the tonic in its second half, does not
originate in the classical period.
Nearly all the binary movements in Baroque
dance suites--allemandes, courantes,
sarabandes--follow this model.
What is new principally, is this business
of the recapitulation,
which gives us the open part of the
movement again, nearly identically, and
thus gives us the opportunity to hear the
material that
was in the dominant, now back home in the
Okay, back to the Mozart.
I have deliberately chosen an example
which is not only conservative in how
it hues to the model, but which is
undramatic in character.
I recommend you listen to a recording of
this work--there are many wonderful

ones, and Daniel Barenboim and Mitsuko Uchida

recorded complete sets of all the sonatas.
And, as you listen to the first movement
with this in mind, you will be struck
by how, even in such a benevolent sounding
work, how strong your need for that
resolution is.
Other than the key, the exposition and the
recapitulation end precisely the same way.
There is no difference in the melody, the
harmony, the texture.
And yet you will know instinctively when
you hear the end
of the exposition, that the piece cannot
be over.
It is simply unresolved.
That is all vastly truncated and
simplified, but really the fundamental
psychological essence
of how we hear a sonata, is contained in
that tonic-dominant relationship.
You see?
Analysis isn't so complicated after all.
It's like a bad Woody Allen joke, about
spending 20
years and 1000s of dollars in therapy only
to find that,
you know, it's all about how your parents
messed you up.
Or if it helps,
think of the sonata less in terms of psychology,
and more in terms of narrative.
One of the most critical perform,
components of a successful performance of
piece of music, is to convey the sense of
a story being told.
Not a literal story, at least not
But any good performance will give the
impression of
events unfolding, of moving from one state
into another.
And this
stripped-down version of sonata form also
implies a stripped-down story.
We are home, then we are lost, finally we
return home again.
And, just as a great writer can weave
an infinite number of unique stories out
of that
outline, the I-V-I outline proved to be an
amazingly fertile, amazingly generous
framework for the classical masters.
They used it over and over again, because
it simultaneously
provided an inherently dramatic basis, and
yet it gave
them immense creative freedom to fill in

the gaps.
Now, Mozart did write one spectacularly odd
work which defies this plan.
That's the so-called Alla Turca Sonata,
which begins with a set of variations.
And Haydn occasionally wrote two- rather
than three-movement
sonatas, which omit the standard
first movement.
They contain only the
second and third.
And sonata movements in minor keys
function differently,
with the relative major taking on a
central role.
But these caveats aside, the rules we've
been discussing were incredibly ingrained,
and that this
would be the structure of a first movement
is axiomatic by the time Beethoven comes
Not just for piano sonatas, but for piano
trios, string quartets, symphonies,
And in the early classical period, the
first movements
are, to a great extent, where the action
I'd like to suggest a selection of first
for you to listen to, if you're so
to hear how, how malleable and exciting
the sonata form can be.
You can begin with a Haydn C major
sonata, the Sonata No. 50.
this movement is in a sense entirely
traditional, but come
the development, Haydn reintroduces the
opening theme in the extremely remote key
of A-flat major.
So C major,
A-flat major.
And simultaneously, he asked the pianist
for the first time in the
piece to hold the sustaining pedal down,
creating a blur effect.
This is an early and fantastic example of
harmony is color, by taking us so far away
the tonic or even the dominant area,
composers introduce not
just the element of surprise, but a
drastically different sonority.
In this case, what was glittery at the
outset of
the, outset of the work, becomes mellow
and mysterious through the change in

Then, you can listen to the Mozart E-flat
piano quartet, K. 493.
Again, the exposition is quite
traditional, although
Mozart includes a third theme, which he
often does when he wants to give the music
a generosity and a spaciousness.
This really isn't radical.
The second and third themes are similar in
character, and
really form a thematic group, which
collectively contrasts with the first
But then, in a remarkable development, the
second theme
reappears in no fewer than seven different
keys, by
my count, culminating in an incredible
four-voice canon,
where the instruments trade the theme back
and forth.
Mozart never goes harmonically as far
afield in
all those seven keys, as Haydn does in his
sonata, but through the constant harmonic
he creates a powerful sense of
And again, I mean not just harmonic
instability, but emotional instability.
Because none of this is theoretical,
harmony is the main currency
of feeling in all music, at least prior to
the twentieth century.
Another fascinating Mozart example is the
C major string quintet,
K. 515.
Here there's an immensely long exposition-the longest classical exposition of any
piece prior to middle-period Beethoven-where he takes his sweet time establishing
the dominant, and then once he gets
there, he includes not the standard one,
not two, but three themes on it.
Rather than provide a long development to
make the proportions work out, though,
he writes one which is really only a
fraction of the length of the exposition.
But by changing the style of writing so
dramatically, from chordal writing
to intricate counterpoint, from long
of harmonic stasis, to constant harmonic
he creates such a feeling of unrest, that
the development
more than holds up to the immensity that
has preceded it.
Moving to Beethoven.

Listen to the first movement of the

Sonata, Opus
13, the so-called "Pathtique Sonata," which
is not one
of the works we'll be looking at in the
subsequent classes.
Contained within this movement is an
entirely standard sonata form--albeit one
a minor key, which is different from what
we've discussed in this slight way-but it is preceded by a lengthy and
weighty slow introduction.
That's already a bit unusual.
In Haydn and Mozart, symphonies can have
slow introductions, but sonatas don't.
But what is really wild, is that Beethoven
brings this material
back at two dramatic junctures within the
main body of the movement.
What this serves to do, is to create
an element of confusion-based agitation in
listener, because we no longer understand
how the
material from the introduction fits into
the grand plan.
Its role is really entirely external to
the sonata form,
but its repeated appearances are so
jarring they create an element of
in what would otherwise be a very
straight-forward, though already very
dramatic, movement.
Now, this is not homework.
You don't have to listen to any of this if
you don't want to or if you don't have the
But if this is your first time hearing
about sonata
form, I think it would be very interesting
for you.
The only
way for all of this to seem other than
theoretical is for you to hear it in
to hear how much musical drama these
masters were able to wring from
what seems like such a small thing, this
relationship between two chords and keys.
But chances are, if you have listened to a
bit of
music, you've already sensed intuitively
much of what I'm talking about.
But knowing--really knowing--the shape of
the music you're listening to,
it gives you an entirely different, and
I would argue less passive, relationship
to it.

Let's take a short break for a review