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Sonata Forms (Revised Edition) Paperback – August 17, 1988
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Top Customer Reviews
If one looks for it, there are brilliant analyses to be found throughout this book, often in unexpected places: a full-scale and fascinating dissection of the first movement of Mozart's great "Prague" Symphony in D major is hidden away in the middle of the "Motif and Function" chapter. Therein lies the major problem of this book for me, in that Rosen, ironically enough in a work about form, seems to have trouble ordering and presenting his ideas in a logical fashion. The chapter on concertos seems intended to illustrate pre-sonata principles, but contradicts its purpose with illustrations mainly from Mozart and his contemporaries.Read more ›
This book goes into sonata form in considerable detail, covering its history, evolution, and variants. It displays the thoughtfulness and insight that Rosen brings to all of his books. It's not an easy read, and I find that it helps to be familiar already with the works under discussion before you read about them. One way to approach the book is to listen to one of the works it discusses several times, until you're quite familiar with it, then come back and read at what Rosen has written on that particular work.
Another bit of advice: don't try this book unless you've already read Rosen's much more famous book _The Classical Style_ and enjoyed it. _Sonata Forms_ is a follow-up on the earlier book, pursuing the same ideas about sonata form at a more technical level.
Bottom line: this book is written for a particular audience, but people who are part of that audience and put in the time to listen to all the works analyzed will feel that their reading efforts have been rewarded.
That said, if, as I did, you tried to read Rosen's The Classical Style: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and found yourself confused by his discussion of sonata form there, this could be the place to start. Rosen's analysis of the sonata forms (notice the plural) here gives the reader a much more complete and convincing argument for his analysis of sonatas as dramatic conflicts of tonalities (and yes, that's an oversimplification of his analysis, but it'll have to do) rather than the standard explanation of a sonata as the exposition/development/recapitulation of two themes in different keys so many of us received.
Now for the bad news: if Rosen's knowledge of particulars is vast and unimpeachable, his argumentation and methods are iffy, especially at crucial points. Case in point: Rosen dismisses general practice as an explanatory model for why sonata forms developed as they did as relying on "a false psychology of the composition and reception of music." (p. 4) In its place, he wants to put the social history of musical performance and reception at the time of the rise of the sonata forms, which he first employs to devastating polemical effect against an unnamed proponent of the general practice model. Problem is, Rosen's own use of social history depends on unjustified (and sometimes unmentioned) assumptions about putative listeners and performers, so much so that it comes to resemble (if not actually reproduce!Read more ›
That being said, this book is well worth reading, given you have the time to read passages again and analyze the musical examples. It provides an excellent analysis of what sonata form is in the Classic Period, with all the details the average musician is not aware of. Rosen uncovers patterns not often discussed when talking about sonata form. This is an excellent history of its development, and in depth analysis of its parts.
I've heard the complaint about Rosen - he is sometimes too harsh in his judgment of others. (Perhaps he is intolerant of stupidity?) However, with respect to clarity, he outclasses most music scholars (at least in writing.) Unlike some scholars, he defines start and end points with measure numbers so the reader can clearly see what is being discussed. He provides definitions for the terms he uses so that there will be little question of what it is he is talking about. Overall, he avoids showy, elitist vocabulary in his text. I find his writing a breath of fresh air.
Understanding the material in this book will arm the reader with a deep understanding of the sonata form, down to is nuts and bolts. Well worth reading, but "Sonata Forms" is a huge commitment of time and energy to understand!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Highly technical survey of the sonata's historical development. Not a book for casual readers, you'll need a strong background in reading and understanding notated music, but if... Read morePublished 5 months ago by David L. Phillips
Not an easy read, but wonderfully logical. He takes a point of view I had never considered, nor had any theory teacher put forth, as to the relationship of Sonata form to other,... Read morePublished 11 months ago by M. Latham
Love this book. The concepts are clearly laid out and are made simple to understand. The examples that are used in the book are perfect for students trying to learn more about... Read morePublished 12 months ago by D.
Thanks for this Rosen is a legendary scholar and even piano player and I'm learning a lot from this for my school and music theory classes. Read morePublished on August 13, 2014 by dnguyen437
I purchased this book for a class and preferred to the others assigned reading. It is a clear and helpful guide to
learning about the history of the sonata form and other... Read more
I think this is a valuable book to own but did not think that the author was completely up to the subject. Read morePublished on May 6, 2014 by Peter F. Lesses
This book is quite effective, in exploring a subject, that is difficult at best, due the actual complete lack of any defined specific form for Sonata composition. Read morePublished on March 31, 2013 by WNL