Exposition (music)

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Exposition Haydn's Sonata in G major, Hob. XVI: G1, I, mm. 1-28
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In musical form and analysis, exposition is the initial presentation of the thematic material of a musical composition, movement, or section. The use of the term generally implies that the material will be developed or varied.


Exposition in classical sonata form

The term is most widely used [4] as an analytical convenience to denote a portion of a movement identified as an example of classical tonal sonata form. The exposition typically establishes the music's tonic key, and then modulates to, and ends in, the dominant. [5] If the exposition starts in a minor key, it typically modulates to the relative major key. There are many exceptions, especially in the late Classical and Romantic era. For example, to the mediant (the first movement of Beethoven's "Waldstein Sonata"), the flat mediant (Ferdinand Ries' "Pastorale" Concerto No. 5), the dominant when in a minor key (Ries' Concerto No. 3), the minor dominant (Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2, Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 2), the submediant (Schubert's "Unfinished Symphony"), the relative minor (Beethoven's "Triple Concerto", Ries' Concerto No. 6), or the parallel major (Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 1). Saint-Saens' Piano Concerto No. 3 even modulates to the leading tone in its first movement exposition, with no orchestral accompaniment. On the other hand, other Classical and Romantic composers strictly adhered to the traditional scheme of modulating to the dominant in a major key or the relative major in a minor key, including Haydn, Mozart, Hummel, John Field, and Mendelssohn. The exposition may include identifiable musical themes (whether melodic, rhythmic or chordal in character), and may develop them, but it is usually the key relationships and the sense of "arrival" at the dominant that is used by analysts in identifying the exposition.

The exposition in classical symphonies is typically repeated, although there are many examples where the composer does not specify such a repeat, and it never is repeated in concertos. In the recapitulation, the material in the exposition is repeated or paraphrased either in the home key (as by Mozart), or the parallel major of the home key if it is minor (as by Beethoven), although as with the exposition, a different modulation may be used (such as to the mediant in Dvorak's "New World Symphony").

If the movement starts with an introductory section, this introduction is not usually analysed as being part of the movement's exposition.

In many works of the Classical period and some of the Romantic era, the exposition is often bracketed by repeat signs, indicating that it is to be played twice. This is something which is not always done in concert from the 20th Century onwards. [6]

Exposition in fugue form

A fugue usually has two main sections: the exposition and the body. In the exposition, each voice plays its own adaptation of the theme, in either a subject or an answer; they also provide countersubjects (counterpoints) to the following voices as they enter. [7] The exposition usually ends on either a I or V chord, and is then followed by the body. [8]

Related Research Articles

Fugue Contrapuntal musical form based on a subject that recurs in imitation

In music, a fugue is a contrapuntal compositional technique in two or more voices, built on a subject that is introduced at the beginning in imitation and which recurs frequently in the course of the composition. It is not to be confused with a fuguing tune, which is a style of song popularized by and mostly limited to early American music and West Gallery music. A fugue usually has three main sections: an exposition, a development and a final entry that contains the return of the subject in the fugue's tonic key. Some fugues have a recapitulation.

Sonata form is a musical structure consisting of three main sections: an exposition, a development, and a recapitulation. It has been used widely since the middle of the 18th century.

The Piano Sonata No. 16 in C major, K. 545, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was described by Mozart himself in his own thematic catalogue as "for beginners", and it is sometimes known by the nickname Sonata facile or Sonata semplice.

Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13, commonly known as Sonata Pathétique, was written in 1798 when the composer was 27 years old, and was published in 1799. It has remained one of his most celebrated compositions. Beethoven dedicated the work to his friend Prince Karl von Lichnowsky. Although commonly thought to be one of the few works to be named by the composer himself, it was actually named Grande sonate pathétique by the publisher, who was impressed by the sonata's tragic sonorities.

<i>Trout Quintet</i>

The Trout Quintet (Forellenquintett) is the popular name for the Piano Quintet in A major, D. 667, by Franz Schubert. The piano quintet was composed in 1819, when he was 22 years old; it was not published, however, until 1829, a year after his death.

Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 29 in B major, Op. 106 is a piano sonata that is widely viewed as one of the most important works of the composer's third period and among the greatest piano sonatas of all time. Completed in 1818, it is often considered to be Beethoven's most technically challenging piano composition and one of the most demanding solo works in the classical piano repertoire. The first documented public performance was in 1836 by Franz Liszt in the Salle Erard in Paris.

Sonata rondo form is a musical form often used during the Classical music era. As the name implies, it is a blend of sonata form and rondo form.

Piano Concerto No. 3 (Beethoven)

The Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37 is generally thought to have been composed in 1800, although the year of its composition has been questioned by some contemporary musicologists. It was first performed on 5 April 1803, with the composer as soloist. During that same performance, the Second Symphony and the oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives were also premiered. The composition was published in 1804, and was dedicated to Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia. The first primary theme is reminiscent of that of Mozart's 24th Piano Concerto.

Piano Sonata No. 21 (Beethoven)

Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 21 in C major, Op. 53, known as the Waldstein, is one of the three most notable sonatas of his middle period. Completed in summer 1804 and surpassing Beethoven's previous piano sonatas in its scope, the Waldstein is a key early work of Beethoven's "Heroic" decade (1803–1812) and set a standard for piano composition in the grand manner.

Closely related key musical term

In music, a closely related key is one sharing many common tones with an original key, as opposed to a distantly related key. In music harmony, there are five of them: they share all, or all except one, pitches with a key with which it is being compared, and is adjacent to it on the circle of fifths and its relative major or minor.

Piano Concerto No. 1 (Chopin)

The Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11, is a piano concerto written by Frédéric Chopin in 1830, when he was twenty years old. It was first performed on 11 October of that year, at the Teatr Narodowy in Warsaw, Poland, with the composer as soloist, during one of his “farewell” concerts before leaving Poland.

Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 16 in G major, Op. 31, No. 1, was composed between 1801 and 1802. Although it was numbered as the first piece in the trio of piano sonatas which were published as Opus 31 in 1803, Beethoven actually finished it after the Op. 31 No. 2, the Tempest Sonata.

Piano Concerto No. 1 (Beethoven)

Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, Op. 15, was written in 1795, then revised in 1800. The first performance took place on 18 December 1795 in Vienna with Beethoven himself as soloist. It was first published in 1801 in Vienna with dedication to his pupil Princess Anna Louise Barbara Odescalchi, known to her friends as "Babette".

The Piano Sonata No. 31 in A major, Op. 110, by Ludwig van Beethoven was composed in 1821. It is the central piano sonata in the group of three, Opp. 109–111, which he wrote between 1820 and 1822, and the thirty-first of his published piano sonatas.

Beethoven and C minor

In the compositions of Ludwig van Beethoven, the key of C minor has been regarded by some as significant. Works for which he chose this key have been suggested to be powerful and emotionally stormy.

Piano Sonata No. 10 (Mozart)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Piano Sonata No. 10 in C major, K. 330 / 300h, is one of the three works in the cycle of piano sonatas K.330-332. The sonata was composed in 1783, when Mozart was 27 years old. It was published, with the other two sonatas by Artaria in 1784. A typical performance of this sonata lasts around twenty minutes.

The Piano Sonata in A minor, D 537, of Franz Schubert is a sonata for solo piano, composed in March 1817.

Piano Sonata No. 1 (Mozart)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Piano Sonata No. 1 in C major, K. 279 / 189d (1774), is a piano sonata in three movements. It was written down, except for the first part of the opening movement, during the visit Mozart paid to Munich for the production of La finta giardiniera from late 1774 to the beginning of the following March. A typical performance of the sonata takes about 14 minutes. It is the first of his 18 piano sonatas. All but two of the sonatas, No. 8 in A minor and No. 14 in C minor, are in a major key. Also, the first six sonatas seem to follow the cycle of fifths, to the flat side first and then to the sharp side.

Ragnall Ua Dálaigh, Irish poet, died 1161.

Concerto for Two Pianos (Stravinsky) Neoclassical piano composition

The Concerto for Two Pianos is a composition by Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. It was finished on November 9, 1935 and, together with his Sonata for Two Pianos, is considered nowadays as one of his major compositions for piano during his neoclassical period. It was also Stravinsky's first work after becoming a French citizen.


  1. Benward & Saker (2009). Music in Theory and Practice: Volume II, p.136-38. ISBN   978-0-07-310188-0.
  2. Don Michael Randel (2003). The Harvard Dictionary of Music. Harvard University Press. ISBN   978-0-674-01163-2.
  3. Don Michael Randel (2003). "Exposition" Harvard Dictionary of Music,p.302 ISBN 0-674--01163-5 Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?id=02rFSecPhEsC&printsec=frontcover&dq=%22harvard+dictionary+of+music%22&hl=en&ei=0fGpTKb_GcSclgfms6XZDA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CC8Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false
  4. William E. Grim, "The Musicalization of Prose: Prolegomena to the Experience of Literature in Musical Form" Papers presented at the Second World Phenomenology Congress September 12 — 18, 1995, Guadalajara, Mexico, in Analecta Husserliana: The Yearbook of Phenomenological ResearchLXIII (1998): 65. "The first section of a sonata form is called the exposition."
  5. William E. Grim, "The Musicalization of Prose: Prolegomena to the Experience of Literature in Musical Form" Papers presented at the Second World Phenomenology Congress September 12 — 18, 1995, Guadalajara, Mexico, in Analecta Husserliana: The Yearbook of Phenomenological ResearchLXIII (1998): 65. "It is in this section that there is harmonic movement away from the primary tonal area to the secondary tonal area."
  6. Charles Michael Carroll, "Memories of Dohnányi" Perspectives on Ernst von Dohnányi, edited by James A. Grymes. Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press, Inc. (2005): 235
  7. Alfred Blatter, Revisiting Music Theory: a Guide to the Practice, New York: Routledge, (2007): p.249-250 ISBN   0-415-97440-2 https://books.google.com/books?id=Z-xfT0jMc9oC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Revisiting+music+theory:+a+guide+to+the+practice&source=bl&ots=2XdInWKF8J&sig=uz7xRfFCraKvukB3H3pfKY_oFzk&hl=en&ei=L_upTLqDCIOClAfx6fCvDA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CB8Q6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false
  8. Alfred Blatter, Revisiting Music Theory: a Guide to the Practice, New York: Routledge, (2007): p.250 ISBN   0-415-97440-2 https://books.google.com/books?id=Z-xfT0jMc9oC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Revisiting+music+theory:+a+guide+to+the+practice&source=bl&ots=2XdInWKF8J&sig=uz7xRfFCraKvukB3H3pfKY_oFzk&hl=en&ei=L_upTLqDCIOClAfx6fCvDA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CB8Q6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false