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Hello, how are you doing? For most of us a sonata is a composition for piano or for piano with a second instrument (such as the violin, the trumpet, the cello or whatever), which is made up of several separate movements or parts. Some composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms have written very famous sonatas. But have sonatas always remained the same? Of course not. Let's go through the history of the sonata. The word sonata started to be used shortly before 1600, and it comes from the Italian verb "sonare", which means to play a wind or string instrument. At the beginning, between years 1600 and 1650 approximately, this word designated any kind of piece that was composed for wind or string instruments, that is, that was instrumental. However, these pieces did not have a unified form, there were a thousand different types of sonatas. But also, the words sonata, symphony or concert, were completely interchangeable. So at first everything was a bit confusing. From this time we have
the sonata Pian e Forte by Giovanni Gabrieli, which was published in 1597. Let's listen to a short fragment. Around 1650 sonatas were mainly sets of dances or of variations on familiar themes. They were played at home, in court, or in church. If they had dances that were not very suitable for the church, they were classified as "sonatas da camera" (chamber), while if they were suitable for the church because they were a little more serious, then they were classified as "sonatas da chiesa" (church). Arcangelo Corelli's sonatas are very famous ones from this period. Let's to listen to a typical Corelli sonata da chiesa, which has four movements that alternate slow-fast-slow-fast. Later on, around 1700, this distinction da camera - da chiesa disappeared, and sonatas were simply called sonatas. They usually had between 3 and 5 movements, like those of Bach's. However, there are some composers who composed one-movement sonatas, such as Scarlatti's keyboard sonatas. Let's listen to a fragment of a Bach solo violin sonata.
And now we come to the second half of the 18th century, to Classicism. Best known sonatas are perhaps from this time, when sonata is standardized as a composition for piano or for piano with another instrument, as we already know, and typically has three or four movements. If it has four movements, they usually are: the first fast, the second slow, the third moderate in the form of a minuet or scherzo and the fourth (the ending one) also fast. As I said, they are compositions for solo piano or piano with a second instrument, because when they are for three instruments they are called trio and when they are for four instruments they are called quartet... As a transitional figure we have the undisputed genius of the sonata, Beethoven. Beethoven has 32 famous sonatas for piano and he is the meeting point between Classicism and Romanticism, in such a way that the former sonatas are more classical and the latter are more romantic. And what do we mean
by romantic? By romantic we mean a kind of style in which many of the typical features of the sonata are skipped, although it maintains others, but giving priority to the composer's personal expression. For example, Liszt broke the rules writing a piano sonata in one single movement. From this time we have very famous sonatas by Brahms, by Chopin, by Schubert, this piano sonata by Liszt ... Let's listen to a fragment of a Brahms sonata for violin and piano. In 20th and 21st centuries there is a lot of variety and a lot of freedom in composing sonatas, and the language is also quite different. Bartók's Sonata for two pianos and percussion is a very worthwhile piece from this period. Let's listen to it in the version of my favorite quartet: Sonata Project. As you can see, this is a very broad topic, so I will make monographic videos about the sonata in certain periods and styles. Thank you very much and see you soon!
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