Jump to content

How should I structure my Piano Sonata in D?

How should I structure my Piano Sonata in D?  

  1. 1. How should I structure my piano sonata?

    • Typical Sonata Structure: Allegro - Andante - Moderato - Presto
    • Deceleration Structure: Allegro - Moderato - Andante - Presto
    • Acceleration Structure: Presto - Andante - Moderato - Allegro
    • Sonata al Reverso: Presto - Moderato - Andante - Allegro

Recommended Posts

That's right, I am composing another piano sonata. And this one will include a Presto movement in Sonata form. I am working on the Presto right now as I speak. The Presto will be the hardest to get right in terms of the feel, so I figured I should get the burden of the Presto out of the way first before moving on to the other movements. Speaking of other movements, this sonata will have 4 movements, unlike my previous sonatas which have only had 3 movements. I am going for the Classical Style with this sonata.

This composition of the Presto movement actually started with me intending it to be an isolated Scherzo. So I went that route and I didn't see enough development. I don't even think Mozart would have seen enough development in my original A section, had he been there to see me compose it. So I expanded it out to Sonata form like this:


Speaking of Mozart, there is one specific movement of one specific piece that inspired me to compose my Presto. That is:

The Presto movement of Mozart's Divertimento in D. By coincidence, the piano sonata I am composing is also in D major. Like Mozart, I went for eighth note accompaniment. But because I was writing for piano solo, Alberti bass made much more sense to me than the simple repeated eighth notes in Mozart's divertimento. I have been doing all these things to get across the feel of a Presto:

  • Write long notes, but not too many, otherwise it will be a Moderato and not a Presto, just enough to provide rest for the hands without losing the constant momentum needed for a Presto
  • Write a lot of sixteenth notes, but don't go crazy on them, otherwise they will become taxing or even impossible
  • Write down fast accompaniment(eighth notes at least), so that when the right hand hits a long note, no momentum is lost
  • Only have both hands rest at cadences
  • Thwart more cadences than I would in an Allegro via melodic means(like for example, the bass stopping on a supposed PAC while the melody just keeps going in sixteenth notes with no sense of cadential arrival)
  • When I want to write a longer sixteenth note passage than just 1 measure, alternate which hand gets the sixteenth notes so that it doesn't become taxing on the pianist
  • Use shorter passages of sixteenths for the purpose of keeping up the Presto momentum and use longer passages for transitions

Anyway, how should I structure my sonata? Since the Presto movement is in Sonata Form, that rules out the second and third movements being Presto. So either the Presto has to come first or it has to come last. This leaves me with 4 possible structures, since Allegro isn't very typical for a middle movement:

  • Allegro(Sonata Form) - Andante(any form) - Moderato(Minuet and Trio) - Presto(Sonata Form)
  • Allegro(Sonata Form) - Moderato(Minuet and Trio) - Andante(any form) - Presto(Sonata Form)
  • Presto(Sonata Form) - Andante(any form) - Moderato(Minuet and Trio) - Allegro(Sonata Form)
  • Presto(Sonata Form) - Moderato(Minuet and Trio) - Andante(any form) - Allegro(Sonata Form)

The first one of these is the typical 4 movement sonata structure. But would there be enough contrast between the Moderato and the Presto? Or would it just sound like a very fast Allegro(which is not what I am wanting)?

The second structure avoids this contrast problem with the Presto, but now the Allegro and Moderato are much closer. Again, would there be enough contrast? And would it even sound right to have the sonata decelerate, only to jerk into the Presto?

The third structure is basically the same structure as Moonlight Sonata, just with an extra fast movement at the beginning instead of starting slow right away. This acceleration structure is known to work. But would it work for my sonata? If I go this route, the Allegro would have to be fast, probably like Beethoven's Fifth First Movement fast.

The fourth possible structure is basically the reverse of the typical 4 movement sonata structure. I don't know of any 4 movement sonatas, symphonies, or concertos, especially not from Haydn, Mozart, or Beethoven, that are essentially composed to be in the reverse of the typical structure. Even Moonlight Sonata isn't composed in the reverse of the typical structure. Now, you might argue that Beethoven's Ninth is composed in the reverse of the typical structure, but I don't think so, for 2 main reasons:

  1. By the time Beethoven composed his Ninth Symphony, the Romantic Revolution was already well underway.
  2. The final movement is in Theme and Variations Form. It just happens to be that Beethoven placed those variations so as to form a larger scale Sonata Form

So, how should I structure my Piano Sonata?

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...