A Guide to Sonata Form

Tchaikovsky: His Life and Works Michael Paul Smith

Now don’t go running away…!  In order to write about much of Tchaikovsky’s music I have to let you know something about how large scale works are built up.  I promise you, if you understand sonata form, it will greatly enhance your enjoyment of many pieces of classical music.

And, as an added bonus, I shall try to tell what the difference is between a sonata, a concerto and a symphony.  It’s not difficult, I promise you…

A symphony is for orchestra, usually in four movements (fast-slow-very fast-fast, at its most basic level).  That was the pattern established by Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven and continued to be used by Mendelssohn, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms and Grieg, among many others; so we really are talking about a huge range of music here.

A concerto is music for orchestra with a solo instrument or instruments showing off in the foreground.  A piano concerto…

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