Essay on The Importance of Function Over Form in the Classical Concerto

Essay on The Importance of Function Over Form in the Classical Concerto

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In the 18th century, the concerto was transformed into a viable instrumental genre to both demonstrate virtuosity as well as a cohesive character that embodied the natural. Though the series of changes from the Baroque concerto grosso to the Classical concerto were gradual and cannot be attributed to a single composer, the Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor K. 466 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is a skillful representation of the genre in that era. Of particular interest in this concerto is the treatment of sonata form in the first movement. When compared to other instrumental genres of that era, there is a tangible divide between the sonata form of the concerto and that of other instrumental genres such as the symphony. To understand this categorization, one must look past the boundaries of genre and form, and focus upon the function of each individual work. As Charles Rosen suggests, “Treating the sonata not as a form but as a style – a feeling for a new kind of dramatic expression and proportions – we may see how the functions of a concerto are adapted to a new style.” It is with this interpretation hat I intend to explore how the functions of a concerto, including the exhibition of virtuosity and contrast of two types of sound, render the first movement of K. 466 with the potential to eclipse any attempt of categorization with other genres of the Classical Period that use sonata form.
Sonata form, according to the Oxford Companion to Music, is the most important musical form of the Classical period. The form is composed of three distinct sections, the exposition, development and recapitulation. In genres such as the symphony or string quartet, sonata form did not stray from this general template. The Classical concerto...


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...Oxford Music Online. Accessed November 14, 2011. http://oxfordmusiconline.com.

Hadow, W. H. Sonata Form. London: Novello, 1979.

Harutunian, John Martin. Haydn’s and Mozart’s Sonata Styles: A Comparison. Lewiston, New York: E. Mellen Press, 205.

Mozart, W. A. “Piano Concerto No. 20.” K. 466. In Wolfgang Amadeus Mozarts Werke, Serie XVI:Concerte für das Pianoforte. Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1878, 181-236. http://imslp.info/files/imglnks/usimg/a/a9/IMSLP26334-PMLP15389-Mozart_Pf_Concerto_20_K466.pdf (accessed November 24, 2011).

Rosen, Charles. The Classical Style: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven. London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1971.

Tucker, G.M. and Nicholas Temperley. Oxford Companion to Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Webster, James. “Sonata Form.” Grove Music Online. Accessed November 14, 2011. www.oxfordmusiconline.com.

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