Sonata - Instrumentation


In the Baroque period, a sonata was for one or more instruments almost always with continuo. After the Baroque period most works designated as sonatas specifically are performed by a solo instrument, most often a keyboard instrument, or by a solo instrument together with a keyboard instrument. In the late Baroque and early Classical period, a work with instrument and written-out keyboard part was referred to as having an obbligato keyboard part, in order to distinguish this from use of an instrument or instruments as continuo, though this fell out of usage by the early 19th century. Beginning in the early 19th century, works were termed sonata if, according to the understanding of that time, they were part of the genre, even if they were not designated sonata when originally published, or by the composer. A related term at the time was "Fantasia" (Italian), "Fantaisie" (French), Phantasie (German), or Fantasy (English), which was applied to movements or works which had a much freer form than the Sonata (for example Schubert's Wanderer Fantasy).

In the Classical period and afterwards, sonatas for piano solo were the most common genre of sonata, with sonatas for violin and piano or cello and piano being next. However, sonatas for a solo instrument other than keyboard have been composed, as have sonatas for other combinations of instruments, and for other instruments with piano.

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