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date: 15 December 2019

Sonata (from It. suonare: ‘to sound’)locked

  • Sandra Mangsen,
  • John Irving,
  • John Rink
  •  and Paul Griffiths


(from It. suonare: ‘to sound’)

A term used to denote a piece of music usually but not necessarily consisting of several movements, almost invariably instrumental and designed to be performed by a soloist or a small ensemble. The solo and duet sonatas of the Classical and Romantic periods with which it is now most frequently associated generally incorporate a movement or movements in what has misleadingly come to be called Sonata form (or ‘first-movement form’), but in its actual usage over more than five centuries the title ‘sonata’ has been applied with much broader formal and stylistic connotations than that.

From the 13th century onwards the word ‘sonnade’ was used in literary sources simply to denote an instrumental piece, as for example in the Provençal 13th-century Vida da Santa Douce: ‘Mens que sonavan la rediera sonada de matinas’. In a mystery play of 1486 the phrase ‘Orpheus fera ses sonnades’ occurs as a stage direction. Cognate usages appear to be the ‘sennets’ called for in Elizabethan plays and the term ‘sonada’ found in German manuscripts of the same period for trumpet calls and fanfares, a later manifestation of which were the more extended ...

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