Application Of The Forms

The use of the various forms of composition, that is, their selection

with a view to general fitness for the composer's object, is,

primarily, simply a question of length. The higher aesthetic law of

adjusting the design to the contents, of which we spoke in the

preceding chapter, comes into action after the main choice has been


The smallest complete form, that of the PHRASE, can scarcely be<
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expected to suffice for an independent piece of music, though its

occurrence as independent section of an entire composition is by no

means rare. The nearest approach to the former dignity is the use of

the Large phrase in one instance by Beethoven, as theme for his

well-known pianoforte Variations in C minor; this theme, and

consequently each variation, is a complete and practically independent

composition. At the beginning of Beethoven's pianoforte sonata, Op.

27, No. 1, the student will find a succession of independent

four-measure phrases, each with a definite perfect cadence, and

therefore complete in itself; this chain of independent phrases is, in

fact, the structural basis of the entire first movement, interrupted

but briefly by the contrasting Allegro. The simple phrase may, also,

find occasional application in brief exercises for song or piano; and

we have witnessed its use as introduction, and as codetta, in many of

the larger designs.

The next larger complete form, the PERIOD, is somewhat more likely to

be chosen for an entire composition, but by no means frequently. The

early grades of technical exercises (public-school music, and similar

phases of elementary instruction) are commonly written in period-form,

and some of the smallest complete songs in literature (a few of

Schumann's, Schubert's, and others) may be defined as period-forms,

extended. The theme of the Chaconne (found in the works of Handel,

Bach, and even some modern writers) is usually a period. Of the

Pr?ludes of Chopin for pianoforte (op. 28), at least four do not exceed

the design of the extended period. But these are, naturally,

exceptional cases; the proper function of the period-form in music is,

to represent the Parts, and other fairly complete and independent

thematic members of larger forms. This is very largely true of the

DOUBLE-PERIOD, also; though it is a very appropriate and common design

for the hymn-tune, and similar vocal compositions; and is somewhat more

likely to appear as complete composition (in exercises, smaller piano

pieces and songs) than is the single period. Nine of Chopin's Pr?ludes

are double-periods.

The TWO-PART SONG-FORM, as already intimated, is not as common as might

be supposed. It is sometimes employed in smaller compositions for

piano (variation-themes and the like), or voice; and is probably the

form most frequently chosen for the hymn-tune. But its most important

place in composition is in the larger forms, as its design adapts it

peculiarly to the purposes of the themes, both principal and


The THREE-PART SONG-FORM, on the contrary, is unquestionably the most

common of all the music designs. Probably three-fourths of all our

literature are written in this form, with or without the repetitions,

or in the related Five-Part form. It is therefore difficult to

enumerate the styles of composition to which this admirable design is

well adapted, and for which it is employed.

The GROUP-FORMS will be found in many songs, ?tudes, anthems, and

compositions of a fantastic, capricious, rather untrammeled character,

in which freedom of expression overrules the consideration of clear,

definite form. It is the design perhaps most commonly selected for the

Invention, Fugue, and--particularly--the various species of Pr?lude;

though these styles, and others of decidedly fanciful purpose, are not

unlikely to manifest approximate, if not direct, correspondence to the

Three-Part Song-form. The modern Waltz is usually a group of


The SONG-FORM WITH TRIO is encountered in older dances, especially the

Menuetto, Passapied, Bourr?e, and Gavotte (though even these are often

simple Three-Part form, without Trio); and in many modern

ones,--excepting the Waltz. It is characteristic of the March,

Polonaise, modern Minuet, Gavotte and other dances, and of the

Minuet--or Scherzo-movement, in sonatas and symphonies.

The FIRST RONDO-FORM is sometimes substituted for the Song with Trio

(to which it exactly corresponds in fundamental design, as we have

learned) in compositions whose purpose carries them beyond the limits

of the Three- or Five-Part forms, and in which greater unity, fluency

and cohesion are required than can be obtained in the song with trio;

for instance, in larger Nocturnes, Romanzas, Ballades, ?tudes, and so

forth. The peculiar place for the First Rondo-form in literature,

however, is in the slow movement (adagio, andante, largo) of the

sonata, symphony and concerto, for which it is very commonly chosen.

It may also be encountered in the small Rondos of a somewhat early

date; and is of course possible in broader vocal compositions (large

opera, arias, anthems, etc.).

From what has just been said, the student will infer that the

rondo-form is not employed exclusively in pieces that are called

Rondo. In the sense in which we have adopted the term, it applies to

a design, and not to a style, of composition; precisely as the

sonata-allegro form may appear in a composition that is not a sonata.

This must not be overlooked. Furthermore, there are a few cases in

literature in which a movement marked Rondo is not written according

to the rondo-form.

The Second and Third Rondo-forms are so similar in purpose and

character that they are generally applied in the same manner, with no

other distinction than that of length. Besides occasional occurrence

as independent compositions (for instance, the two Rondos of Beethoven,

op. 51, the A minor Rondo of Mozart, the Rondos of Field, Dussek,

Hummel, Czerny, etc.), these designs are most commonly utilized for the

Finale (last movement) of the complete sonata, concerto,

string-quartet, trio, and other chamber-music styles; more rarely for

the finale of the symphony.

The SONATINE and SONATA-ALLEGRO FORMS, likewise, serve corresponding

purposes, and are chosen according to the length or breadth of design

desired. The sonatine-form may therefore be expected in the first

movement of smaller sonatas, or sonatinas (as they are often called),

but it is not infrequently employed in the slow movement of larger

sonatas or symphonies.

The most distinguished of all music-designs, the sonata-allegro form,

is almost invariably chosen for the opening movement of sonatas,

symphonies, concertos, trios, string-quartets and similar compositions,

sometimes in greatly augmented dimensions. It is also not unlikely to

appear in the slow movement, and finale, of the symphony.