Do not be afraid of it! This theme cannot be skipped; it isn’t much, and it isn’t hard!
Studies of form
In the world of fine arts the relationship between form and content is often debated. I will begin with the following words. In classical music it is exceptionally important which artistic trend, form and content, perfect unity of part and whole does the music itself endeavors. The relation of part and whole is discussed on the “Workshop secrets” page.
What is “form”? Latin word, meaning: shape, figure.
In a general and formal sense: A philosophical notion meaning the relation between the constituents of a phenomenon; its counterpart category is content.
“Content” in a general sense is the internal, essential part of a phenomenon, which also determines the form of said phenomenon, and creates a dialectic unity with it.
The definitions are from a Lexicon of Aesthetics; I promise to be simpler from here on, but I have to add that we cannot talk about art without aesthetic knowledge, or the aesthetic language. We often have to look up different things.
Before we analyze each symphony, I will write about a few basic notions, and the study of from.
The question occurs::What is symphony?
The word is of Greek origin, symphonia = agreement or concord of sound.
From the XIV. – XV. century the word symphonia (German word) is used to mark polyphonic instrumental musical pieces.
Around the year 1750 the form of the symphony changes, reaching its four-movement form through Haydn’s work, while ascending to its climax in Beethoven’s art.
The symphony is an orchestral piece. It consists of four large sections, these are movements.
Movements are marked with Roman numbers.
Each movement has a different form, tempo, and character:
form tempo character
I. movement sonata form fast dramatic
II. movement songform slow lyrical
III. movement minuet/scherzo fast dance/joy/humor
IV. movement rhondo from faster carefree happiness
Next I will write about the form of each movement in detail. I will describe each musical form based on different symphony movements, and after the explanations musical examples will follow.
The “I. movement.” Sonata form.
This is the most important movement of the symphony! The structure and form is precisely defined by the rules of the sonata form. Often there is a slow introductory section before the movement and the first theme, this is the introduktio.
Word definition: the word sonata, meaning musical piece performed on an instrument, is different from sonata form, which is a musical from.
The sonata form is the “obligatory” form of the first movement of a symphony, a sonata /as well as the overture, the string quartet and the concerto/. Its content is the 1/ introduction of musical themes, 2/ elaboration, 3/ repetition, then the movement’s closing theme, the coda.
So the sonata from is divided into three parts: exposition, elaboration, reexposition, which is the return /repetition/ of the exposition, which is closed by the coda.
Exposition – This is the part where the musical themes are introduced: firth theme, second theme, third or closing theme. /exposition/
o first theme: a melody usually in major tone, with an indefinite melody line and rhythm
o second theme: it has a softer tone; it can be similar to or different from the characteristics of the first theme
o third or closing theme: as a third theme it closes the
introduction of the themes.
It is a rule, that after the introduction of the themes (this is the exposition’s introductory line) they have to be repeated once unaltered. Of course there is an exception. The composer doesn’t always include the repetition of the introductory line.
Chosen example: I. symphony II. movement, which is exceptionally in sonata form. We are listening to its themes!
First_theme 1 01_first_theme
Second_theme 2 02_second_theme
Closing_theme Z 03_closing_theme
Legend of used symbols:
1 – first theme
fugato – the musical theme is in fugato development (think of the canon!)
2 – second theme
2v – second theme’s variation development
2cp2 – second theme’s consequent part; it is repeated (This is what the upper case number indicates: 2 )
Cl – closing theme
l/4 – this is the so called quartet-motif, consisting of two notes; the first theme’s first two notes
We are listening to the exposition!
As we can see, the exposition’s introductory line is repeated.
1 fugato 2 2v 2cp2 Cl 1-4 -51 1.07 -22 -44 -59
1 fugato 2 2v 2cp2 Cl 1-4
Elaboration – In this section a selected motif from the first theme – introduced in the exposition – is developed. How is the elaboration done? With the performance of a musical theme in a different tone, in variation form, in fugue development, or by the motivic alteration of a motif or a selected section of the theme, or the development or weaving of a motif; and in many other ways.
Here it is done by repetitions, with a beating accompaniment.
1-4 1-4 1-4 1-4 1-4 1-4 1-4 1-4 1-4 <csp >
- - - - - - - - - kd-kd-kd-kd
Reexposition – In this section the introduced musical themes in the exposition are repeated, to which the closing theme, the coda joins. /coda/
1 -ep 2 2v 2cp Cl 1-4
-48 1.04 -26 -41 -55
Coda: 1 1m –Cl-m 1-4 1-4 ho 4 –Cl-m
-17 -38 -54
For over 200 years, musicologists claim that the »sonata form« is the best way to express ideals and emotions in music!
I present you the rough build and structure of the sonata form:
Exposition: 1 2 3 - the exposition’s introductory line
1 2 3 - the repetition of the introductory line (it is sometimes omitted!)
Elaboration: 1 2, m - very often the motif/s/ are being developed
Reexposition: 1 2 3 - the repetition of the exposition
+ coda - summarizes the musical material and closes the movement
We are listening to the whole movement!
The purpose is to notice the themes and observe the elaboration!
Exposition: 1 fugato 2 2v 2cp Z 1-4
1 fugato 2 2v 2cp Z 1-4
Elaboration: 1-4 1-4 1-4 1-4 1-4 1-4 1-4 1-4 <cli >
- - - - - - - kd-kd-kd-kd
Reexposition: 1 -ep 2 2v 2cp Cl 1-4
Coda: 1 1m –Cl-m 1-4 1-4 ho 4 –Cl-m
This structure is ancient as well as modern. First the Greek used it in rhetoric, where the structure of the speech was divided into an Introductory part, a Main part, and a Concluding part. We use it even today. /rhetoric/
The role of the coda, following the reexposition, becomes extremely important with Beethoven! Even so, it became invaluable as in it, Beethoven concludes and emphasizes, or sometimes trumpets abroad the essence of the music’s message.
Why are there three themes /melodies/ in the movement?
In a Hungarian elementary
school essay, where there are 6 introductory sentences, 25 main sentences and 5
concluding sentences, the total number of sentences is
Think about it: if a movement’s music consisted of 36 melodies /or only of 10 melodies/ would we be able to memorize them all? It would be impossible. Musical language does not permit it. This is why there are only two-three melodies, musical thoughts express the message and content the music carries.. The closing theme does not carry any message! Its role is solely to conclude.
We have arrived to the word content. Form is the counterpart of content, as a philosophical notion. As I have written before, form and content does not exist without each other. The connection between them is so strong as two constituents within an alloy, inseparable. This applies to music as well.
Describing with a comparison: A farmer plows the field. This is a declarative sentence, more precisely a divided, whole, simple, complemented sentence, as it has a subject, a predicate, and an object. The structure of the sentence can be marked as follows: S P O.
Many similar sentences can be formed or said.
The sentence’s structure /structure/ is defined /S P O/, but its content is different; there can be billions of different contents.
Thus when I say or write down a declarative sentence, I give the form content. They can only exist together, assuming each other, this is why I used the word alloy to describe their relationship. Neither is more important than the other, neither is primary. The unity of form and content is inseparable.
I wrote about this because among the aesthetics, the question and relation of form and content is always debated. The theory is far-reaching and unconcluded. It is no surprise that Croce Benedetto /1866 – 1952/ Italian aesthete wrote the following sentence: “Content and form is the most famous passive of aesthetic richness.”
I will shed light on the relation of form and content with another example. Think about the human skeleton, and the body that builds upon it. The skeleton, the structure is always the same / this is form/, but the body connected to it /this is content/ is always different, and we call it human. Every human being is unique. Philosophically, we could say that the skeleton is the “general”, while the human is the “unique”.
My aim with this short analysis was to divert attention to the theory and study of artistic questions, and I recommend to read and immerse in the questions of aesthetics.
The sonata form as a musical structure is what provides a composer with the ability to fill it with content. The content and its quality solely depends on the composer. We can say that each sonata, each symphony movement is unique; there are no two outcomes that would be the same.
The “II. movement.”
This is the slow movement in which the lyrical aspect comes into the limelight. It is characterized by emotionally rich melodies. The form is less defined and it can vary:
a/ simple three-part form: structure scheme: A– B–A
b/ Romance form: a developed version of the previous form, its scheme is also A–B–A, where the main melody surrounds a melody with the opposite mood.
c/ Rhondo form: letter scheme: A–B–A–C–A–D, where the main melody (A) is repeated, between the repetitions there are so called episodes (BCD). Read more at the IV. movement!
d/ Variation form – It is ruled by a single theme, a single melody, which appears again and again in variation developments. (Listen to the II. movement of Haydn’s Kettledrum symphony at the variation headword!)
Beethoven did not compose the II. movements in his symphonies according to the rules of form, he tends to the sonata from in most cases. For him the rules of form are governed by musical themes and motifs. The II. movement of his III. EROICA symphony is a really free sonata form; in fact, it is a musical masterpiece, however masterpiece of grief and pain.
I have chosen the II. movement of the V. symphony, which is a so called “free variation” movement. as an example. The movement can be divided into four large blocks, marked by the letters A, B, C and D, each consisting of two themes. We are listening to the themes!
First theme 1 08_fate_first_th
Second theme 2 09_fate_second_th
Legend of used symbols:
1cp – first theme’s consequent part
Tr – musical transition
1v – first theme’s variation
fe = fermata – hold at one note
il – interlude
ch-fi – chord figurations, here they serve as transition
1 minor – first theme in minor tone
Cl – Closure
1m – first theme’s motif
1 1cp 2 < 2 tr >
-35 -52 112 -28
1v 1cp 2 < 2 tr >
-32 -50 110 -26
1v 1v 1v -fe- - il - < 2 > ch-fi
-19 -37 54 - 105 106-53 -54 217
1-minor tr Cl:1m 1cp
-20 -36 109
We are listening to the movement in whole!
A block 1 1cp 2 < 2 tr >
B block 1v 1cp 2 < 2 tr >
C block 1v 1v 1v -fe- - il - < 2 > ch-fi
D block 1-minor tr Cl:1m 1cp
Example for the songform:
Beethoven: Opus 13. „pathetique” piano sonata II. movement, which is in songform, with two sequences in the middle.
A B A C A Coda
105 202 235 330 433
The “III. movement.” Minuet/scherzo. /scherzo/
It is a moderately fast paced, but often slow movement. This movement of a traditional symphony was called minuet, but later changed to scherzo, but the three-part form remained: A-B-A.
The minuet, as we know, was a common dance. Beethoven left out the minuet signal, and often the scherzo as well, and only wrote tempo designation e.g. Allegro, Presto.
The meaning of the word scherzo: fun. To it dancelike character comes high spirits, humor and serenity. since the age of romance it also appears as a standalone character piece.
Chosen example: I. Symphony III. movement. – Menuetto. Allegro molto e vivace, ¾
The menuetto’ theme:
menuetto (main melody) 16_minuet_theme
The Trio’s theme: 17_trio_melody
Pay attention! The track starts in forte volume, which sounds at the end of the scherzo, and after it begins the trio’s melody. Based on what you have read about so far, observe the motivic play and repetitions that follow the performed theme, which all make up the chief characteristic and style of classical music. Furthermore, notice the rhythmic play and diversity.
In this symphony it is only the III. movement that forecasts the later unique language of Beethoven’s compositions. They were extremely daring and modern in the days they were composed.
We are listening to the movement’s “A” section, the menuetto.
We are listening to the movement’s “B” section, the trio.
trio 19_trio Watch out! It starts loudly!
We are listening to the movement’s “A” section, the repetition of the menuetto.
The scherzo of scherzos is the II. movement of the VIII. symphony, however its from is a sonata form without elaboration; we will see it there!
The ”IV. movement.” The rhondo.
The rhondo was originally a French round dance. (XII. century)
Rhondo with musical instruments was developed in the XVII. century.
Its essence is a main theme’s alternation with different episodes /couplet/.
Its first great master was Couperin, Francois /1668-1733/.
During the development of the form, the classical one-themed rhondo, the small rhondo is created. In this only the rhondo theme can reprise.
Its structure is: A–B–A–C–A.
“A” section = rhondo-theme; its melody and repetition is easy to recognize even when in variation form; While the “B” and “C” sections are episode-themes; their melody alters.
The rhondo’s most evolved form is the classical two-themed rhondo, called big rhondo or sonata rhondo. In it one of the episode themes also has a reprise, thus becoming the second theme. Its structure is: A–B5–A–C–A–B–A, where B, represents the second theme; The movement can be (also) closed with a coda.
In it merge the principle of the sonata form and the rhondo.
In classical music this form becomes steady in the last movement of sonatas, symphonies, chamber pieces and concertos.
at the beginning of opera performances the Italian audience expected the opera not to end dramatically, but instead have a lieto fine = a happy ending. the same thing happened during the evolution of instrumental music. The audience does not want a dramatic ending, rather a pleasant one.
The rhondo is usually fast paced with lively rhythm; in terms of content weightless: a simple, “problem-free” music compared to the I. movement. Its musical themes have less emphasis, they are rather light, sometimes more playful.
We will listen to a few examples.
1/ II. symphony IV. movement - exposition, resembling the fast and fluent tempo characteristic of the IV. movement, the music with a lighter tone, one that a music lover listens to with pleasure.
Movement form: a mixture of rhondo and sonata form.
See in more detail during the analysis of the symphony!
2/ C-major, „WALDSTEIN” sonata Op. 53. III. movement, here I created a flow chart with time staples.
Movement form: rhondo, without sonata principle.
A – rhondo-theme
B, C – episode-themes
ly_M – lyrical middle section
Bv – B variation of the episode theme
coda – closing section
A B A C ly_M A Bv coda
123 234 354 456 711 750 915
3/ Eine kleine Nachtmusik (Serenade No. 13 for strings in G major), IV. movement –, which is one of Mozart’s most popular masterpieces; it is characterized by folk tone, perfect formal ratio, and clear melody. It is an everlasting piece, one of the most brilliant diamonds of classical music. You’re most probably familiar with it as well. Flow chart is not necessary here.
4/ We are listening to the rhondo of a piano sonata, Beethoven: Opus 2. No2 - IV. movement: Rondo. Grazioso.
A B A C A D A E Coda
047 113 144 320 405 425 456 538
Content and form
We are listening to one final musical illustration to understand the relation of content and form. The content here has a real message: the victory of justice. Here is a short excerpt from the III. Leonora overture.
The musical section’s (only one and a half minutes) content can be expressed with words (with my words and thoughts).
The innocent state captive languishes in prison, when at last the moment of his freedom comes:
Ø at first we hear a soft music with uncertain rhythm, interrupted by periods of silence, which resembles the prison's dark, stifled atmosphere and hopeless mood,
Ø after a short time, racing passages of string instruments (violins, second-violins, cellos and double basses) represent how the rays of sun and the sunlight enter through the opening prison door,
Ø which is then followed by the unbridled, ecstatic moments of release, the rejoice in happiness, the soul's boundlessly flowing emotions, of course in the language of music.
Here the content and form is connected to each other like two different metals within an alloy, inseparable.
We feel this connection stronger if we are familiar with Beethoven's opera titled Fidelio, and the plot of the opera itself, as the overture was composed based on a literary work.
This short excerpt can also be used to determine what defines classical music; using only four words.
Fearful vigour /élan terrible/, triumphal success /éclat triomphal/.
These four words were first used by a French composer, Gossec, F. J. (1769-1868) – for the music of the French Revolution. Listening to Beethoven symphonies may convince the dear audience of how these four words are the most appropriate to describe classical music as well.
The characteristics of each movement in the symphony
movement form tempo character
I. sonata form fast dramatic
II. simple three-part form slow lyrical
/It can also be romanceform,
rhondo form, variation form)
III. scherzo fast serene merry
A B A
IV. rhondo even faster weightless, carefree
A B A C A D (lieto fine)
(It can also be sonata form, variation form)
The tempo designations
In music the tempo of each movement is defined with the use of Italian words. These describe how fast or slow the movements have to be performed.
Meaning of the word tempo: time. In music it
means the absolute specification of the notes' duration. In
The most common words for tempo:
Adagio – slow and stately (literally, "at ease")
Adagio molto – really slowly
Andante – at a walking pace
Andantinó – slightly faster/slower than Andante
Larghetto – rather broadly (slower than Andantino)
Allegro – fast, quickly, and bright (literally)
Allegro ma non troppo – fast, but not too much
Allegro vivace – very fast and lively
Allegro con fuoco – fast, quickly, with fire
Presto – extremely fast
Presto possibile – as fast as possible
o General History of Music is important
o Musical Lexicon is vital
o Lexicon of Aesthetics (Do not be afraid of it! If we read into it once or twice, we will grow to like it, whether we want to or not.)
o a concerto guide
o and of course a book containing the biographies of favoured composers
couplet fr couplé – a snappish cabaret song with chorus structure, often including timely, veiled references < back
exposition, lat – from the word exhibit, exhibition; the beginning of the musical form, in which the composer introduces the musical themes < back
scherzo, it – the designation for fun, fast, easily flowing instrumental movements with lively rhythm; during its evolution it replaces the minuet, and achieves its universal character in Beethoven’s symphonic art; it has a light, dance-like character; it is defined by merry mood, joy, musical humour; < back
structure, a basic notion of modern sciences, philosophy and artistic theory; it derives from the latin word struere (to build). The meaning of the word has widened during the centuries. Anatomy: the position of organs. Linguistics: the position of words in speech. During its development they used the expression structure first for the whole, then for the parts of the whole, and finally for the relation between the parts.
Music: Beethoven’s symphonies, and the structure of the symphonies’ movements not only can be followed and interpreted through hearing, but it can also be written down with the use of symbols. This is what I call a flow chart. See in more detail during the analysis of each symphony, as wel as in the “Semiotics” section under Selections! < back
trio, it – originally a piece composed for three instruments; in the 17. century in European chamber music the trio-sonata is a representative genre; at around 1750-1760 Mannheim and Vienna musicians apply the minuet into symphonies, the middle section of which is the trio < back