I’ve been playing sonatinas before I ever knew what a sonatina even was, so everytime I’m asked what a sonatina is, I am kinda caught off guard! As we are preparing for many of our students to participate in the Dallas Sonatina-Sonata Festival on December 10th, we thought we’d share why learning sonatinas are important!
Sonatinas are short sonatas, which means “a piece that sounds on a musical instrument” in Italian. They have been an important form throughout music history and were originally developed in the Classical Era (1770-1820). Hundreds of sonatinas have been written, and composers still continue to write them today. Sonatinas either have two, three, or four movements, and the movements tend to have more than one theme or melody. Each movement depicts a different character, and are usually differentiated from each other by tempo markings, meter, and/or mood. What each sonatina has in common is that they follow a certain form, or structure.
For example, some movements of sonatinas are designed in three part form, or ternary form, labeled as ABA. There is the main theme (A), a second theme is introduced (B), and then the return of the main theme (A). Ternary form can usually be found in the first, second, and fourth movements, although you can see other forms in these movements as well. Third movements are usually in rondo form. In rondo form, the main theme (A) always returns before a new theme is introduced.
So why play a sonatina? Playing a classical piece of music is important in the development of every budding pianist. Learning these classical pieces gives the student a way of learning sonatina form, completing a challenge, and the dedication of working hard on a piece.
The sonatina festival is essentially a recital of sonatinas played by students from across the metroplex. Each student plays one movement from the sonatina from memory while they are critiqued by a judge. These critiques are wonderful to get- as much as what we tell our students help them improve, hearing it from a judge is fantastic!! Be proud of your student for learning a sonatina- they are learning a core piece of music as a pianist, and it’s not an easy task!