The Sonata, String Quartet and Symphony

You have listened to Mozart’s three-movement Piano Sonata in C KV 309 in some detail and learned much about the way major instrumental works were composed in the second half of the eighteenth century and beyond.

Occasionally sonatas included a dance in 3/4 instead of the slow movement or the finale. But frequently in string quartets (similar compositions written for 2 violins, viola and violoncello) and symphonies (similar compositions written for full orchestra) a dance in 3/4 time called a “Menuet” (or a fast Menuet, which was called a “Scherzo” meaning “joke”) was also added  between  the slow movement and the fast finale.

Here is a selection of links to music which will help you to come to enjoy and understand the flexibility and expressiveness offered in the music of the Classical period:

Mozart: Eine kleine Nachtmusik. Note the vigorous, but uncomplicated use of sonata form in the first movement; the single minor key episode in the slow movement, the 3/4 Menuetto & Trio dance movement and the rather unusual rondo finale, where main theme can be heard in a variety of different keys.

Mozart: Overture to Le nozze di Figaro (“The Marriage of Figaro”). Even opera overtures used sonata form, the contrast of lively themes setting the scene superbly for the hustle and bustle of the first act.

Mozart: Piano Concerto in D minor KV 466. Writing piano concertos, Mozart took great care to ensure a fine balance of thematic ideas between the soloist and the orchestral instruments. The concerto also has three, not four movements.

Mozart: Sonata in D for two pianos KV448. Does the use of two instruments change the basic style you have studied with the Sonata KV 309? When you listen to this following the score, remember that because this piece is in D major, the second most important key will be A major, the ‘dominant’ key (In KV309 C major and G major were the tonic and dominant keys!)

 

Mozart: Symphony no. 41 in C major KV551. Compare this, his last symphony from 1788, with the earlier one. Because this is also in C major, it is possible to make lots of comparisons to the K309 sonata. But there are also many differences, not least the length of the work. Try to identify as many similarities and differences as you can.

Haydn: Symphony no. 39 in G minor. Written when Haydn was probably 33. Compare this with Mozart’s early G minor symphony, which you can hear again by linking to the Classical Period background page. Why would you say this music has characteristics of Sturm und Drang style?

Haydn: Symphony no. 102 in Bb major. Compare this, almost his last symphony from 1795, with both the earlier Haydn symphony and Mozart’s 41st.