Abstracts of issue 17 (2003)

George Fitsioris

Texts on the Theory of European Music: Sonata Forms

This paper begins by adopting Charles Rosen’s view that sonata forms are the most dramatic and narrative-like forms of the Classical and Romantic period, and presents the two prevalent and, to a great extent, conflicting scenarios that exist, in an attempt to give an account of the opening Allegro of a symphony or sonata.
After expressing the (essential for the understanding of tonal procedures) claim that cadences function as the most powerful organizing principle in tonal music, the paper goes on to introduce late 18th and early 19th century viewpoints, and to show that most writers of the time viewed the form of a work’s first movement mainly in terms of the perfect authentic cadences that rounded off the two large sections. Then it presents mid-19th century approaches that emphasize the thematic characteristics of the sonata form (resulting in some kind of three-part structure) and argues that most of the theoretical approaches of the 20th century have returned to the aforementioned viewpoints, placing anew the emphasis on the harmonic procedures and their goals – the cadences.
The paper concludes by explaining why the sonata form is better understood as an extended two-part harmonic pattern and recording some of the specific characteristics common in all sonata forms, which have to do exclusively with the harmonic structure of the form.

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