“Nobody writes better about music …. again and again, unerring insight into just the features that make the music special and fine.”―The New York Review of Books
Charles Rosen says of sonata form: “[It] is not a definite form like a minuet, a da capo aria, or a French overture; it is, like the fugue, a way of writing, a feeling for proportion, direction, and texture rather than a pattern.”
Everything you always wanted to know about the sonata, but were afraid to ask, answered at surprising length and with copious musical illustrations. Sonatas are generally thought of as being always organized into exposition, development, and recapitulation, but, writes Rosen, “…it is very dubious that a unique sonata form can be so defined even for a single decade of the late eighteenth-century,” and he goes on to prove why it can’t. Important reading for the serious musician.
Charles Rosen has a knack for clear, passionate writing that feels like storytelling. Sonata Forms is a great example of that writing style combined with theories of music that greatly impacted the field of music theory.
Rosen was one of the first to think of the sonata not as a single form, like the rondo, but more as a style of composing. In Sonata Forms, he first provides a history of how the form developed and then goes into the actual functions each section (exposition, development, and recapitulation) serves. By comparing these functions to a musical conversation, he provides a clear picture of the actual goals of sonatas.
I rate Sonata Forms 5 out of 5 stars for its approachability, organization, and music theoretical impact.