Sonata form is one of the more popular forms of music that is found in a variety of different works including symphonies, concertos, and sonatas. Sonata form features three distinct sections: the exposition, development, and recapitulation. Mozart was one of the early composers of this form of music. I will examine the clear distinctions between each section and how he does not stray from the typical form. In later years the form would change to become more fluent and focused on the growth and expansion of the piece. This progression of change was led by the works of Beethoven and the changes can be clearly seen in his grandiose works. By comparing the first movement of Symphony No. 40 by Mozart and the first movement of Symphony No. 3 “Eroica” by Beethoven one can begin to understand this progression and development of the sonata form.
Before analyzing, it is essential to know about each individual composer. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in 1756 into a musical family and was a musical genius. At the young age of three, Mozart was able to identify intervals on the keyboard (his favorite was known to be the 3rd). It didn’t take much time after this for him to get into keyboard lessons or to begin writing small compositions beginning in 1761 at the age of 5 under the guidance of his father, Leopold Mozart. Between the ages of 8-10 he wrote his first three symphonies. His Symphony No. 40, was composed just a few years before his death in 1788. Mozart is best known for his normal use of form as well as his melodic and memorable themes. He is certainly one composer whose music has undeniably stood the test of time. His compositions are so respected by his critics that one once stated that “Mozart is music.”
Ludwig van Beethoven was born in December of 1770. He was raised in a very musical family. His father was a musician who had high hopes for his son to become the next Mozart. At age 17, he made his first trip to Vienna to audition to become a composition pupil of the great Mozart. In Vienna, he studied with the all of the great teachers of the time including Haydn, Schenk, and Salieri. In 1802, he began to lose his hearing, but never ceased writing music. He lived in Vienna the rest of his life and constantly composed for remainder of his life, even through his deafness. His Symphony No. 3, “Eroica” was written in 1803-1804. It was originally dedicated to Napoleon Bonaparte. When Beethoven found out that Napoleon had proclaimed himself as emperor, he immediately took away his dedication and scribbled the dedication off of the score. This seemed typical of Beethoven, as he was well known for his strange and unpredictable character. He was not afraid to do exactly as he pleased. This is especially true when it comes to breaking all the standard rules as determined by previous composers. Beethoven is a revolutionary name for the music world. He transformed the symphony into a huge work that we know it as today. He turned the coda into something bigger than a simple ending and wrote many short themes rather than long themes like Mozart. Early Beethoven works represent a more of the classical style, where as his later pieces experiment more with developing new styles. These works are often considered to be something in between periods. It is not strictly classical, but had enough of the classical features to be excluded from being considered strictly romantic. The “Eroica” is the first of his symphonies to feel like it is from the romantic era. By comparing symphonies from the classical era and one that borders both periods, one can see the development of sonata form.
As said before, sonata form contains three large sections, the exposition, the development, and the recapitulation. Introduction and coda are optional. We see both an introduction and coda used in the 1st movement of the “Eroica”. The exposition is used to introduce the main themes that are...