This leaves only the exposition and the recapitulation sections. Such examples include the overtures to Rossini's La Gazza Ladra and The Barber of Seville, or the 2nd movement of Beethoven's Tempest sonata.

This truncated form is also known as "sonatina form".

  • 2
    FWIW, the "Tempest" 2nd movement is in sonata form, it just has an exceptionally short development: mm. 38 – 43.
    – Aaron
    Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 3:13
  • Is your core question actually "Why is sonatina form so popular?" (Other examples of this sonatina form include the Nutcracker Overture, several Mozart slow movements, and the overture to The Marriage of Figaro.)
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Apr 22, 2023 at 6:19

2 Answers 2



The first answer is because a composer can modify a form any way they like.

But a more insightful answer is because the recapitulation is the essential aspect of sonata form. Other forms don't feature recapitulation. Small binary forms - like you might find in minuets - sometimes feature a simple recapitulation. For example, part A starts in the tonic ends in the dominant, then after a part B the A section is repeated but the dominant part of A is transposed to the tonic. That is a simple type of recapitulation, and you could describe such forms as a kind of prototype or nascent sonata form.

The development section of a sonata may be the dramatic part, but the recapitulation is the really essential section that defines the sonata form.

  • In your example, why would we not consider the B section you mention to be the development? Commented Apr 19, 2023 at 19:08
  • You could, and if you consider the standard double bar repeat dividing binary A :||: B you see why some people consider sonata form a two part form. Binary B often uses sequential harmony, standing on the dominant, similar to a sonata development. But, it's the recapitulation that's formally distinctive. Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 18:44

We're just arguing over labels. The distinguishing features of Sonata Form are: two themes in contrasting keys, a development section, recapitulation of the two themes in the same key. Introduction, codetta and coda optional.

If the development is missing, is it still useful to label it as 'Sonata Form'? Or would it be more helpful to say 'Modified Sonata Form' or 'Sonatina Form'?

Personally, if a useful description would need to be 'Sonata Form, BUT...' I'd find another label.

Also, remember that the word 'Sonata' in a work's title isn't necessarily a claim that it's in classic 'Sonata Form'.

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