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Piano sonata

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Piano sonata

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A piano sonata is a sonata written for unaccompanied piano. Piano sonatas are usually written in several movements, usually three or four, occasionally just one or two. The first movement is usually composed in sonata form.


The Baroque keyboard sonata

In the Baroque era, the use of the term of term "sonata" generally referred to either the sonata da chiesa (church sonata) or sonata da camera ("ordinary" sonata), both of which were sonatas for various instruments (usually one or more violins plus basso continuo). The keyboard sonata was relatively neglected by most composers.

It was the over 500 sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti that were the hallmark of the Baroque keyboard sonata, though they were for the most part unpublished during his lifetime. The majority of these sonatas are in one-movement binary form, both sections being in the same tempo and utilizing the same thematic material. These sonatas are prized both for their technical difficulty (which has also lead to some to criticise them as being nothing more than pedagogical compositions to develop technique) and musical and formal ingenuity. Much of the Spanish folk music's influence on Scarlatti is evident in these sonatas.

Other composers of keyboard sonatas (most in two or three movements) include Marcello, Giustini, Durante and Platti.

Piano sonatas in the Classical era

Although various composers in the 17th century had written keyboard pieces which they entitled "Sonata", it was only in the classical era, when the piano displaced the earlier harpsichord and sonata form rose to prominence as a principle of musical composition, that the term "piano sonata" acquired a definite meaning and a characteristic form.

All three of the great Classical era composers, Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Ludwig van Beethoven (also Romantic) wrote many piano sonatas, as did the much younger Franz Schubert.

The 32 sonatas of Beethoven, including the well-known Pathétique Sonata and the Moonlight Sonata, are often considered the pinnacle of piano sonata composition.

Piano sonatas in the Romantic era

As the Romantic era progressed after Beethoven and Schubert, piano sonatas continued to be composed, but in smaller numbers as the form took on a somewhat academic tinge and competed with shorter genres more compatible with Romantic compositional style. Franz Liszt's comprehensive "four-movements-in-one" Sonata in B minor draws on the concept of thematic transformation first introduced by Schubert in his Wanderer Fantasie of 1822. Piano sonatas have been written throughout the 19th and 20th centuries and up to the present day.

Famous Piano Sonatas


  • Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus
    • Piano Sonata in E-flat major (K. 281/189f - see Köchel-Verzeichnis)
    • Piano Sonata in A Major (K. 331/300i)
    • Piano Sonata in B-flat major (K.333/315c)
    • Piano Sonata in C Major (K.545)
    • Piano Sonata in B-Flat Major (K.570)
  • Haydn, Franz Joseph (ca 1732-ca 1809)
    • Piano Sonata in E flat major, H. 16/52
  • Beethoven, Ludwig Van
    • Piano Sonata No. 1 in F minor, Op.2/1
    • Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op.13 "Pathétique"
    • Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op.27/2 "Moonlight"
    • Piano Sonata No. 15 in D Major, Op. 28 "Pastoral"
    • Piano Sonata No. 17 in D minor, Op. 31/2 "Tempest"


  • Beethoven, Ludwig Van
    • Piano Sonata No. 21 in C Major, Op.53 "Waldstein"
    • Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, Op.57 "Appassionata"
    • Piano Sonata No. 26 in E-flat Major, Op. 81a "Les adieux"
    • Piano Sonata No. 29 in B-flat Major, Op.106 "Hammerklavier"
    • Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op.111
  • Chopin, Frédéric
    • Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 35, "Funeral March"
    • Piano Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op.58
  • Grieg, Edvard
    • Piano Sonata, Op.7
  • Franz Liszt
    • Sonata after a Reading of Dante (Fantasia Quasi Sonata)
    • Sonata in B minor
  • Mendelssohn, Felix
    • Piano Sonata in E major, Op.6
    • Piano Sonata in G minor, Op.105
    • Piano Sonata in B-flat major, Op.106
  • Rachmaninoff, Sergei
    • Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op.36
  • Schubert, Franz
    • Piano Sonata No. 20 in A major, D.959
    • PIano Sonata No. 21 in B-flat major, D.960
  • Schumann, Robert
    • Piano Sonata No. 1 in F♯ minor, Op.11 "Grosse Sonate"
    • Piano Sonata No 2 in G minor, Op.22
    • Piano Sonata No. 3 in F minor, Op.14 "Concerto without Orchestra"

20th Century (Including Modern)

  • Barber, Samuel
    • Sonata for Piano, Op.26
  • Bartók, Béla
    • Piano Sonata, Sz.80
  • Berg, Alban
    • Piano Sonata, Op.1
  • Boulez, Pierre
    • Piano Sonata No. 1
    • Piano Sonata No. 2
    • Piano Sonata No. 3 (Unfinished: only two of the five movements have been published.)
  • Copland, Aaron
    • Piano Sonata
  • Dutilleux, Henri
    • Sonata for Piano
  • Hindemith, Paul
    • Piano Sonata No. 1 in A Major "Der Main"
    • Piano Sonata No. 2 in G Major
    • Piano Sonata No. 3 in B flat Major
  • Ives, Charles
    • Piano Sonata No.2, Concord, Mass., 1840-60
  • Janáček, Leoš
    • Piano Sonata "1.X.1905"
  • Prokofiev, Sergei
    • Piano Sonata No. 3 in A minor, Op.28 ("From Old Notebooks")
    • Piano Sonata No. 6 in A Major, Op.82 ("War Sonata 1")
    • Piano Sonata No. 7 in B flat Major, Op.83 ("War Sonata 2/Stalingrad")
    • Piano Sonata No. 8 in B flat Major, Op.84 ("War Sonata 3")
  • Scriabin, Alexander
    • Piano Sonata No. 5
    • Piano Sonata No. 7 "White Mass"
    • Piano Sonata No. 9 "Black Mass"
  • Stravinsky, Igor
    • Sonata for Piano

See also

Home | Up | Sonata form | Sonata forms | Piano sonata | Violin sonata | Bassoon sonata | Cello sonata | Clarinet sonata | Flute sonata | Viola sonata | Sonata da Chiesa | Criticism and sonata form

Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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