Skip to main content Accessibility help
The Sonata
  • Cited by 3
  • Export citation
  • Recommend to librarian
  • Buy the print book

Book description

What is a sonata? Literally translated, it simply means 'instrumental piece'. It is the epitome of instrumental music, and is certainly the oldest and most enduring form of 'pure' and independent instrumental composition, beginning around 1600 and lasting to the present day. Schmidt-Beste analyses key aspects of the genre including form, scoring and its social context - who composed, played and listened to sonatas? In giving a comprehensive overview of all forms of music which were called 'sonatas' at some point in musical history, this book is more about change than about consistency - an ensemble sonata by Gabrieli appears to share little with a Beethoven sonata, or a trio sonata by Corelli with one of Boulez's piano sonatas, apart from the generic designation. However, common features do emerge, and the look across the centuries - never before addressed in a single-volume survey - opens up new and significant perspectives.


‘This book packs a lot in and is highly recommended for the careful reader.’

Source: Music Teacher

'This volume seems particularly relevant to first-year undergraduates, who will surely fall upon its jargon-free vocabulary and crystal-clear layout with delight … as a history of works called sonatas, this keenly-focused study is essential reading.'

Source: The Musical Times

‘5 stars: In this outstanding book Schmidt-Beste covers every conceivable aspect of sonata history.’

Source: Classical Music

Refine List

Actions for selected content:

Select all | Deselect all
  • View selected items
  • Export citations
  • Download PDF (zip)
  • Send to Kindle
  • Send to Dropbox
  • Send to Google Drive

Save Search

You can save your searches here and later view and run them again in "My saved searches".

Please provide a title, maximum of 40 characters.


Select bibliography
1. General
Berger, Melvin, Guide to Sonatas: Music for One or Two Instruments (New York: Anchor Books, 1991)
Bockmaier, Claus and Mauser, Siegfried (eds.), Die Sonate: Formen instrumentaler Ensemblemusik, Handbuch der musikalischen Gattungen, 5 (Laaber Verlag, 2005)
Edler, Arnfried, Gattungen der Musik für Tasteninstrumente, Handbuch der musikalischen Gattungen, 7, 3 vols (Laaber: Laaber Verlag, 1997–2004)
Hinrichsen, Hans-Joachim, ‘Sonata/Sonate’, in Handwörterbuch der musikalischen Terminologie (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1996)
Mangsen, Sandra, Irving, John, Rink, John and Griffiths, Paul, ‘Sonata’, in The New Grove, 2nd edn., eds. Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (London: Macmillan, 2001), 23, 671–88
Newman, William S., The History of the Sonata Idea, vol. 1: The Sonata in the Baroque Era (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1959)
Newman, William S., vol. 2: The Sonata in the Classical Era (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1963)
Newman, William S., vol. 3: The Sonata since Beethoven (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1969)
Newman, William S., Re-edition of all three volumes, New York: W. W. Norton, 1972; several reprints
2. Before 1750
Brossard, Sébastien, Dictionaire de musique (Paris: Ballard, 1703; reprint: Amsterdam; Antiqua, 1964); English translation as James Grassineau, A Musical Dictionary […] A new edition, to which is added an appendix, selected from the Dictionnaire de musique of M. Rousseau: containing all the new improvements in music, etc. (London: J. Robson, 1769; reprint: New York: Broude Brothers, 1966)
Mattheson, Johann, Der vollkommene Capellmeister (Hamburg: C. Herold, 1739; reprint: Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1991); English translation with critical commentary by Ernest C. Harriss (Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press, 1981)
North, Roger, Memoirs of Musick, ed. Rimbault, Edward F. (London: George Bell, 1846; reprint: Hildesheim: Olms, 2004)
Praetorius, Michael, Syntagma Musicum, vol. 3 (Wolfenbüttel; Johannes Richter, 1619; reprint: Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2001); English translation ed. Jeffery Kite-Powell (Oxford University Press, 2004)
Scheibe, Johann Adolph, Critischer Musikus (Leipzig: Breitkopf, 1745; reprint: Hildesheim: Olms, 1970)
Secondary Literature
Allsop, Peter, Arcangelo Corelli. New Orpheus of our Times (Oxford University Press, 1999)
Allsop, Peter, The Italian Trio Sonata from its Origins until Corelli (Oxford: Clarendon, 1992)
Barnett, Gregory Richard, Bolognese Instrumental Music, 1660–1710: Spiritual Comfort, Courtly Delight, and Commercial Triumph (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008)
Bates, Carol Henry, ‘The Early French Sonata for Solo Instruments: A Study in Diversity’, in Recherches sur la musique Française classique, 27 (1991), 71–98
Best, Terence, ‘Handel's Solo Sonatas’, in Music & Letters, 58 (1977), 430–8
Bonta, Stephen, The Church Sonatas of Giovanni Legrenzi (Ph.D. thesis, Harvard University, 1964)
Dell'Antonio, Andrew, Syntax, Form and Genre in Sonatas and Canzonas 1621–1635 (Lucca: Libreria Musicale Italiana, 1997)
Flannery, Matthew, A Chronological Order for the Keyboard Sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti, 1685–1757 (Lewiston, NY, and Lampeter: Edwin Mellen Press, 2004)
Heidlberger, Frank, Canzon da sonar. Studien zu Terminologie, Gattungsproblematik und Stilwandel in der Instrumentalmusik Oberitaliens um 1600, Würzburger Musikhistorische Beiträge, 19, 2 vols (Tutzing: Schneider, 2000)
Hogwood, Christopher, The Trio Sonata, BBC Music Guides (London: BBC, 1979)
Lester, Joel, Bach's Works for Solo Violin: Style, Structure, Performance (Oxford University Press, 1999, 2003)
Mangsen, Sandra, ‘The Sonata da Camera before Corelli: A Renewed Search’, in Music & Letters, 76 (1995), 19–31
Schulenberg, David, ‘The Sonate auf Concertenart: A Postmodern Invention?’ in Bach Perspectives, 7 (2008), 55–96
Selfridge-Field, Eleanor, Venetian Instrumental Music from Gabrieli to Vivaldi (Oxford: Blackwell, 1975)
Swack, Jeanne R., ‘On the Origins of the Sonate auf Concertenart’, in JAMS, 46 (1993), 369–414
Williams, Peter, The Organ Music of J. S. Bach (Cambridge University Press, 1980)
Zohn, Steven David, Music for a Mixed Taste: Style, Genre, and Meaning in Telemann's Instrumental Works (Oxford University Press, 2008)
3. After 1750
Bach, Carl Philipp Emanuel, Versuch über die wahre Art das Klavier zu spielen (Berlin: G. L. Winter, 1753–62; reprint: Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1994), as Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments, trans. and ed. William J. Mitchell (New York and London: Eulenburg, 1974)
Birnbach, Heinrich, ‘Über die verschiedene Form größerer Instrumentalstücke aller Art und deren Bearbeitung’, in Berliner Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, 4 (1827), 269–72, 277–81, 285–7, 293–5, 361–3, 369–73
Boulez, Pierre, Orientations: Collected Writings, ed. Nattiez, Jean-Jacques, trans. Martin Cooper (London and Boston: Faber & Faber, 1986)
Boulez, Pierre, Wille und Zufall (Stuttgart and Zurich: Belser, 1977)
D'Indy, Vincent, Cours de composition musicale, vol. 2 (Paris: Durand, 1909)
Galeazzi, Francesco, Elementi teorico-pratici di musica, vol. 2 (Rome: Pilucchi Cracas, 1796)
Hanslick, Eduard, The Beautiful in Music, trans. Gustav Cohen, ed. Weitz, Morris (New York: Liberal Arts Press, 1957)
Hiller, Johann Adam, Wöchentliche Nachrichten und Anmerkungen, die Musik betreffend, vol. 3 (Leipzig: Zeitungs-Expedition, 1768; reprint: Hildesheim: Olms, 1970)
Hoffmann, E. T. A, ‘Grande Sonate pour le Pianoforte […] par J. F. Reichardt’, in Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, 16 (1814), 344–50
Hoffmann, E. T. A, Musical Writings: Kreisleriana. The Poet and the Composer, Music Criticism, trans. Martyn Clarke, ed. Charlton, David (Cambridge University Press, 1989)
Ives, Charles, Essays before a Sonata, The Majority and Other Writings, ed. Boatwright, Howard (New York/London: W. W. Norton, 1970)
Koch, Heinrich Christoph, Versuch einer Anleitung zur Composition, vol. 3 (Leipzig: Adam Friedrich Böhme, 1793; reprint: Hildesheim: Olms, 1969); partial English translation as Introductory Essay on Composition: The Mechanical Rules of Melody, Sections 3 and 4, trans. Nancy Kovaleff Baker, Music Theory Translation Series (New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 1983)
Köhler, Louis, ‘Franz Liszt, An Robert Schumann. Sonate für das Pianoforte’, in Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, 41 (1854), 70–2
Marx, Adolf Bernhard, Die Lehre von der musikalischen Komposition praktisch theoretisch, 4 vols (Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1837–47), partly translated in A. B. Marx, Musical Form in the Age of Beethoven: Selected Writings on Theory and Method, ed. and trans. Scott Burnham, Cambridge Studies in Music Theory and Analysis, vol. 12 (Cambridge University Press, 1997)
Parry, Charles Hubert Hastings, ‘Sonata’, in A Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Grove, George (London: Macmillan, 1883), 3, 554–83
Quantz, Johann Joachim, Versuch einer Anweisung die Flöte traversiere zu spielen (Berlin: Johann Friedrich Voß, 1752; reprint: Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1992 and 2004); English translation as On Playing the Flute, trans. and ed. Reilly, Edward R. (London: Faber & Faber, 1966)
Reicha, Anton, Traité de haute composition (Paris: Zetter & Cie., 1824–6); German translation as Vollständiges Lehrbuch der musikalischen Composition, trans. and ed. Carl Czerny, 4 vols (Vienna: Diabelli, [1832])
Riemann, Hugo, Große Kompositionslehre, vol. 1: Der homophone Satz (Berlin and Stuttgart: Spemann, 1902)
Riepel, Joseph, Anfangsgründe zur musicalischen Setzkunst, 5 vols (vol. 1: Regensburg and Vienna: Emmerich F. Bader and Augsburg: Johann J. Lotter, 1752; vol. 2: Regensburg: J. L. Montag, 1755; vol. 3: Regensburg: J. L. Montag, 1757; vol. 4: Augusburg: Johann J. Lotter, 1765); reprinted as Sämtliche Schriften zur Musiktheorie, ed. Thomas Emmerig, Wiener Musikwissenschaftliche Beiträge, 20/1 (Vienna: Böhlau, 1996)
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, Dictionnaire de musique (Paris: Veuve Duchesne, 1768; reprint: Hildesheim: Olms, 1969); English version as A Complete Dictionary of Music: Consisting of a Copious Explanation of all Words Necessary to a True Knowledge and Understanding of Music, trans. William Waring (London: J. Murray, 1779; reprint: New York: AMS Press, 1975)
Schmitz, Arnold, Beethovens ‘Zwei Prinzipe’ (Berlin and Bonn: Ferdinand Dümmlers Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1923)
Schoenberg, Arnold, ‘Brahms the Progressive’, in Style and Idea, ed. Newlin, Dika (New York: Philosophical Library, 1950), 398–441
Schubart, Christian Friedrich Daniel, Ideen zu einer Ästhetik der Tonkunst (Vienna: J. V. Degen, 1806; reprint: Hildesheim: Olms, 1990)
Schumann, Robert, Music and Musicians: Essays and Criticisms by Robert Schumann, trans. and ed. Ritter, Fanny Raymond, second series (London: William Reeves, 1880)
Secondary Literature
Allorto, Riccardo, Le sonate per pianoforte di Muzio Clementi: studio critico e catalogo tematico (Florence: Leo S. Olschki, 1959)
Barford, Philip, The Keyboard Music of C. P. E. Bach: Considered in Relation to his Musical Aesthetic and the Rise of the Sonata Principle (London: Barrie and Rockliff, 1965)
Berman, Boris, Prokofiev's Piano Sonatas: A Guide for the Listener and the Performer (New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 2008)
Block, Geoffrey Holden, Ives: Concord Sonata, Piano Sonata no. 2 (‘Concord, Mass., 1840–1860’), Cambridge Music Handbooks (Cambridge University Press, 1996)
Bonds, Mark Evan, Wordless Rhetoric: Musical Form and the Metaphor of the Oration (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991)
Borris, Siegfried, ‘Die Krise der Sonate im 20. Jahrhundert’, in Musa – Mens – Musici. Im Gedenken an Walther Vetter (Leipzig: Deutscher Verlag für Musik, 1969), 361–78
Bowers, Faubion, Scriabin: A Biography (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1996)
Brendel, Alfred, Alfred Brendel on Music: Collected Essays (Chicago: A Cappella, 2001)
Caplin, William E., Classical Form: A Theory of Formal Functions for the Instrumental Music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven (Oxford University Press, 2000)
Cone, Edward T., Musical Form and Musical Performance (New York: W. W. Norton, 1968)
Daverio, John, Robert Schumann: Herald of a ‘New Poetic Age’ (Oxford University Press, 1997)
Davidson, Michael, The Classical Piano Sonata: From Haydn to Prokofiev (London: Kahn & Averill, 2004)
Drake, Kenneth, The Beethoven Sonatas and the Creative Experience (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994)
Fisk, Charles, Returning Cycles: Contexts for the Interpretation of Schubert's Impromptus and Last Sonatas (Berkeley and London: University of California Press, 2001)
Freeman, Daniel E., ‘Lodovico Giustini and the Emergence of the Keyboard Sonata in Italy’, in Anuario musical 58 (2003), 111–38
Hadow, William Henry, Sonata Form (London: Novello, 1896)
Hamilton, Kenneth, Liszt: Sonata in B Minor, Cambridge Music Handbooks (Cambridge University Press, 1996)
Hardy, Lisa, The British Piano Sonata: 1870–1945 (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2001)
Hepokoski, James and Darcy, Warren, Elements of Sonata Theory. Norms, Types, and Deformations in the Late-Eighteenth-Century Sonata (Oxford University Press, 2006)
Hinrichsen, Hans-Joachim, ‘Sonatenform, Sonatenhauptsatzform’, in Handwörterbuch der musikalischen Terminologie (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1996)
Hinrichsen, Hans-Joachim, Untersuchungen zur Entwicklung der Sonatenform in der Instrumentalmusik Franz Schuberts (Tutzing: Hans Schneider, 1994)
Irving, John, Mozart's Piano Sonatas: Contexts, Sources, Styles (Cambridge University Press, 1997)
Jerold, Beverly, ‘Fontenelle's Famous Question and Performance Standards of the Day’, in College Music Symposium, 43 (2003), 150–60
Kämper, Dietrich, Die Klaviersonate nach Beethoven (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1987)
Kinderman, William, Mozart's Piano Music (Oxford University Press, 2006)
Komlós, Katalin, Viennese Fortepianos and their Music: Germany, Austria and England, 1760–1800 (Oxford University Press, 1995)
Lockwood, Lewis, and Kroll, Mark (eds.), The Beethoven Violin Sonatas: History, Criticism, Performance (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2004)
Marshall, Robert L. (ed.), Eighteenth-century Keyboard Music (New York and London: Routledge, 2003)
Matthews, Denis, Beethoven Piano Sonatas, BBC Music Guides (London: Ariel Music, 1986)
McCabe, John, Haydn Piano Sonatas, BBC Music Guides (London: Ariel Music, 1986)
Messing, Scott, Neoclassicism in Music: From the Genesis of the Concept through the Schoenberg/Stravinsky Polemic (Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press, 1988)
Radcliffe, Philip, Schubert Piano Sonatas, BBC Music Guides (London: British Broadcasting Corporation, 1967)
Rampe, Siegbert, Mozarts Claviermusik. Klangwelt und Aufführungspraxis. Instrumente, Interpretation, Werkbesprechungen (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1995)
Ratz, Erwin, Einführung in die musikalische Formenlehre (Vienna: Universal, 1973)
Réti, Rudolph, Thematic Patterns in Sonatas of Beethoven, ed. Cooke, Deryck (London: Faber & Faber, 1967)
Ritzel, Fred, Die Entwicklung der “Sonatenform” im musiktheoretischen Schrifttum des 18. und 19. Jahrhunderts (Wiesbaden: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1968)
Rosen, Charles, Beethoven's Piano Sonatas: A Short Companion (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002)
Rosen, Charles, Sonata Forms (New York: W. W. Norton, 1980, 1988)
Rosen, Charles, The Romantic Generation (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998)
Rostal, Max, Beethoven: The Sonatas for Piano and Violin: Thoughts on their Interpretation, trans. Horace and Anna Rosenberg (London: Toccata Press, 1985)
Salmon, John, The Piano Sonatas of Carl Loewe (New York: Peter Lang, 1996)
Schulte-Bunert, Dieter, Die deutsche Klaviersonate des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts, Kölner Beiträge zur Musikforschung, 24 (Regensburg: Bosse, 1963)
Scott, Stuart, Skryabin and the Piano: An Introduction to Alexander Skryabin and his Piano Music (Sale: S. Scott, 1999)
Shedlock, J. S., The Pianoforte Sonata, its Origin and Development (New York: Da Capo Press, 1964)
Somfai, László, The Keyboard Sonatas of Joseph Haydn: Instruments and Performance Practice, Genres and Styles (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1995)
Stanley, Glenn, ‘Genre Aesthetics and Function: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas in their Cultural Context’, in Beethoven Forum 6 (1998), 1–29
Sutcliffe, W. Dean, The Keyboard Sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti and Eighteenth-century Musical Style (Cambridge University Press, 2003)
Todd, R. Larry (ed.), Nineteenth-century Piano Music (New York: Schirmer Books, 1990; 2nd edn. New York and London: Routledge, 2004)
Tovey, Donald Francis, A Companion to Beethoven's Pianoforte Sonatas (Bar-to-bar Analysis) (London: Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, 1931; rev. edn. 1998)
Webster, James, ‘Sonata Form’, in The New Grove, 2nd edn., eds. Sadie, Stanley and Tyrrell, John (London: Macmillan, 2001), 23, 688–701
Wheeldon, Marianne, ‘Debussy and La sonate cyclique’, in Journal of Musicology, 22 (2005), 644–79
Wiesenfeldt, Christiane, Zwischen Beethoven und Brahms. Die Violoncello-Sonate im 19. Jahrhundert (Kassel and London: Bärenreiter, 2006)
Winter, Robert S., ‘The Bifocal Close and the Evolution of the Viennese Classical Style’, in JAMS, 42 (1989), 275–337


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Book summary page views

Total views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between #date#. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.