Room 81--The Sonata-Allegro form

The sonata-allegro form set the standard for construction of the first movements of many classical symphonies. It evolved out of sonata forms from the mid-18th century. The graphic below give you a rough idea of the basic form. Essentially it is in three parts: Exposition, Development and Recapitulation. In the audio example provided, the sound follows this description very precisely. It is the first movement, from Mozartís Symphony No. 40 in G minor.
We will give you the timing of events so you can follow as you listen.


0:00 It begins with the main theme in G minor. (the tonic key)

0:56 Second theme in C major (the subdominant key)
2:12 A complete re-statement of the Exposition section begins with first theme.
3:07 Second theme is heard again.
4:19 Development begins based upon the first theme. Notice how the theme is repeated With different keys using different tonal centers.
5:42 Development ends and Recapitulation begins with first theme again
6:59 Second theme stated again, but this time it is in the tonic key of G minor.
7:54 The coda begins to commence the ending of the movement.

Mozart was being very meticulous about his construction of the movement. Audiences of the time perceived these forms very well and knew what to expect. They could tell when the development started and the recap returned. As time passed, composers took more and more liberties with these forms, until they were abandoned for forms that were very free in their structures.

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