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I just had this idea come to mind after I analyzed Grande Valse Brillante Op. 18 and asked if it was in Sonata form. What if I combine the Waltz and the Sonata? Here is my proposed form for the piece:

enter image description here

I call the piece that I am composing, Valse Quasi una Sonata, which translates to Waltz almost like a Sonata. As you can see from the image, I use the Dominant more as a bridge than a true Dominant. This is how I bridge to the Subdominant with the Dominant:

C major -> C minor chord(or the note Eb) -> Bb major

I have this bass pattern occurring throughout the piece:

Root, Chord, Chord

Often the 2 chords will be an inversion apart, but when the right hand gets into the bass clef, the chords are sometimes the same. The Root is usually at least a fifth down from the first chord, but particularly with the F major chord, I find that I can only do that when the melody goes up high. If it stays in the first octave, I have to have the first F major chord be in first inversion, a third up from the root(the F an octave below the great octave, F1, is just too low to be the bass note in my Waltz). The hardest part I have found so far about composing this piece is having the rhythm of the Waltz and the form of the Sonata, while keeping the piece coherent.

So, how can I keep the piece coherent when I am combining the rhythm of the Waltz with the form of the Sonata? Use melodic fragments from earlier in the Waltz in the Development(My Development sections tend to have a high ratio of new material to old material)? Have the left hand play the melody in the development, while keeping the Waltz rhythm going in the right hand?

  • Perhaps you should look after Sonatas in a Waltz rhythm for comparing how other composers did? – Albrecht Hügli Nov 22 '19 at 14:54
  • But, I have no idea who has composed Sonatas in a Waltz rhythm to get an idea of how to get across that contrast that is needed. I know of some atypical sonatas, namely the 2 sonatas by Beethoven in Op. 27, but those are more like a fantasy than a Waltz, even with the constant triplets in the first movement of the Moonlight Sonata. I have no idea where to start as far as sonatas in a Waltz rhythm. – Caters Nov 22 '19 at 18:14
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I see no problems with keeping a waltz in sonata-allegro form coherent. I've composed tougher and more aberrant sonata-allegros. A ragtime sonata-allegro, compete with properly repeated strains of conventional length...a heavy metal sonata-allegro...a 20th century-style toccata in sonata-allegro form, complete with the increased dissonance typical of 20th-century classical music...heck, a sonata-allegro for drum kit and glockenspiel where the first theme group before the transition is played by the drum kit only and is therefore atonal...

Your suggestions to use melodic fragments from the exposition in the development and try swapping which hand gets the melody and which hand gets the accompaniment are great, but I'd use them for any sonata-allegro, not just waltzes in sonata-allegro form.

It's quite possible that your consistent use of a waltz accompaniment alone will keep your sonata-allegro coherent. Keeping the tempo consistent will also help, at least a little bit.

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You'll keep it coherent in exactly the same way you would if it was in 4/4, 6/8 or any other time signature.

The essence of Sonata form is presenting two themes in contrasting keys (the Exposition), messing around with them in a variety of keys (the Development) then repeating them, but both in the same key (the Recapitulation).

You might consider a bit more variety than sticking to a constant 'oom-cha-cha' accompaniment in the left hand! But that's just the same as suggesting a piece in 4/4 shouldn't ALWAYS have 'oom-cha-oom-cha'.

Look at a simple ternary form piece like Bach's 'Minuet in G'. It's an ancestor of Sonata form. (And the Minuet is an ancestor of the Waltz.) Just one theme. Then a fragment of it is played around with in the dominant key. Then a return to the theme, in the home key.

Can you write something like that? Then you'll be ready to move on to the more complex Sonata form.

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I call the piece that I am composing, Valse Quasi una Sonata, which translates to Waltz almost like a Sonata

One thing to have in mind: The terms "sonata" and "sonata form" are two entirely different matters, and that can be quite confusing.

Sonata is originally an instrumental composition as opposed to a cantata which is a vocal composition. But that goes way back in history. A sonata has developed into being a big work with four movements, can also be three movements though or even two, but four is very typical. A sonata for solo violin by Bach is a huge work with four large movements. In baroque music there is also something called a trio sonata which is for three instruments, well actually typical for two melody instruments and continuo. But the sonata form is not part of these sonatas. Later on in history a sonata continues to be a big work, often a work for piano solo or a work for piano and another instrument. If there are more instruments like a string quartet or an orchestra the term sonata is usually not applied although the template with four movements becomes very usual.

And at some point the "sonata form" was invented, but not as a designation of the form of the entire work. The sonata form only refers to the form of one movement and it became a tradition to make the first movement of a sonata in sonata form. I don't know why that form is called sonata form, but a qualified guess is that it is because it is typically the form of the first movement in a sonata. The form can also appear in other movements, but the first movement is the typical movement for the form.

There is of course nothing wrong with making a waltz in sonata form. After all a waltz is often a work in ABA form and the sonata form is in essence also ABA, you could say an extended version of ABA. So a waltz in sonata form will probably be a big waltz. But whether it turns the music into a sonata really has nothing to do with the sonata form as pointed out above. You can of course decide to write a sonata in just one movement. Personally I have once composed a sonata for viola and piano in just one movement, but actually not in sonata form.

Thus "sonata form" is a way of making a movement. It is actually a very good way if you want to make a bigger movement, because it is a form or "template" that gives room for a lot of ideas and developments. You don't need to call a work sonata if you use that form. You can also use the form in a vocal work even that sonata originally means an instrumental composition, but since "sonata form" refers to the form of the movement and not whether it is instrumental or vocal there is no limitation to where you can use the form. As a composer you write the music that you want to write using the forms that appeals to you.

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