Beethoven and Haydn provide several examples of sonatas. Two piano sonatas in particular are Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 5 in C minor, and Haydn’s Piano Sonata No. 49 in C-sharp minor. Haydn wrote primarily in the mid to late 1700’s, while Beethoven wrote about a hundred years later.
For that reason, it is likely (and, in fact, true in these examples) that Haydn’s style would be more typical of ‘normal’ sonata form. The Beethoven sonata begins with a short A theme (which crashes staccato style between piano and forte), followed by a softer, more lyrical B theme.
There is no transitional material between the A and B themes; the A theme simply ends and the B theme begins in the next measure. There is only a brief pause between them. The exposition repeats, and lasts unusually long before the transition and development begin. The transition is very brief, only a few measures, and the development is also fairly brief. The recapitulation begins shortly afterwards. The sonata form is rather unclear throughout the piece – it is not a standard example by any means. The A theme is solidly in C minor, but the B theme is major.
It is not the dominant, which is extremely unusual; it is probably in V/iv. It is difficult to tell what key it is in during the B theme as there is no transition, which is traditional, and it is not in the dominant. The recapitulation of this movement is two simple chords that are struck in staccato fashion, similar to the A theme material. The chords sound like V-I, which is a standard ending. The tonic-dominant relationship in this movement isn’t as strong as it would ordinarily be in a sonata; transitions are unclear or unused; keys are unusual.
This is an odd example of sonata form. The Haydn sonata is a much more typical example of sonata form. It begins with an A theme in the exposition in C# minor, and moves, with a brief transition, into a B theme in the dominant. The A theme is a contrast between a forte staccato section, and a piano lyrical section, very similar to the Beethoven piece. The B theme is in general more lyrical and flowing than the A theme although it has staccato moments as well. The motives are very obvious, so it is easy to tell when the themes return, which they do throughout the movement.
The exposition repeats. Afterwards, a development begins, with a very brief “x” section at the beginning as transitional material. The development contains a sequence in the middle of it, and the piece goes through several key changes there, landing on a V7 – I to finish the sequence. This sequence repeats later in the movement as well, just before the beginning of the recapitulation. The sequence is characterized by the emphasis of the bass in half notes with sixteenth notes playing over the top. It moves primarily in major seconds, but not exclusively.
The A section repeats most often, more so than the B section. The A theme repeats very definitely again at the start of the closing. The transitional material is brief and remains in the tonic, and the B theme is in the tonic. There is a short section at the end that is a bit different from the A or B theme that may be considered a coda. All in all, this is a very predictable, typical sonata form movement. These two movements are similar in that they are both sonata form movements, that they both have two distinctive themes, and that these themes vary between legato and staccato styles.
However, Haydn, who composed during the classical period, adhered much more strictly to traditional sonata form, including proper transitions and key changes. The sections of the form are extremely easy to pick out and are in typical proportion to one another, with the development lasting the longest. Beethoven, who composed during the Romantic era, obscured the form more than Haydn did, so that it bore resemblance to sonata theme but was unique in several ways. The examples together show a progression in the compositional styles through the musical periods.
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