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Sonata (from Latin and Italian sonare, "to sound", Italian: pl., Sonate), in music, literally means a piece played as opposed to a cantata (Latin and Italian cantare, "to sing"), a piece sung. The term, being vague, naturally evolved through the history of music, designating a variety of forms prior to the Classical era. The term took on increasing importance in the Classical period, and by the early 19th century the word came to represent a principle of composing large scale works. It was applied to most instrumental genres and regarded alongside the fugue as one of two fundamental methods of organizing, interpreting and analyzing concert music. Though the musical style of sonatas has changed since the Classical Era, most 20th- and 21st- century sonatas still maintain the same structure.


Usage of sonata

In the Baroque, the term "sonata" was applied to a variety of works for solo instrument such as keyboard or violin, and for groups of instruments.[citation needed] In the transition from the Baroque to the Classical period, the term sonata underwent a change in usage, coming to mean a chamber-music genre for either a solo instrument (usually a keyboard), or a solo melody instrument with piano. Increasingly after 1800, the term applied to a form of large-scale musical argument, and it was generally used in this sense in musicology and musical analysis.[citation needed] Most of the time if some more specific usage was meant, then the particular body of work would be noted: for example the sonatas of Beethoven would mean the works specifically labeled sonata, whereas Beethoven sonata form would apply to all of his large-scale instrumental works, whether concert or chamber. In the 20th century, sonatas in this sense would continue to be composed by influential and famous composers, though many works which did not meet the strict criterion of "sonata" in the formal sense would also be created and performed.[citation needed] The term sonatina, literally "small sonata", is often used for a short or technically easy sonata.

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