Haydn Sonata XVI:4 - Moderato


This is an early work which already depicts the traditional sonata form. With irregularly sized phrases and a long episode separating them in the exposition, it succeeds to exhibit an appropriate but particular presentation shape.


Main theme “A”

“A” can be characterized as a rhythmically polarizing phrase, with its settled antecedent being followed by a more dynamizing consequent which strongly relates to B. Its bass line is simple and smooth -voice leading wise-.

Taking into account this piece’s tempo, we can confidently apply forearm movement to the bass making sure we “upbeat” elegantly the first third heading into the more settled repetition on the stronger part of the beat. On the contrary the treble should be performed using an undisturbed finger movement.

We always need to remember Haydn was a composer with a strong sense of the rhyth. We can see this clearly in the way his phrases are not only repetitive but obviously climatic around the strong beats of each bar. He doesn’t try to defy the time signature as much as he uses it in the benefit of his musicality.

It is important to highlight the homophonic quality of this piece implies that the leading line should be played, in terms of volume, clearly on top of the accompaniment. The more dynamic consequent can be also played using the same technical devices.

It is of particular interest the way in which Haydn treats the material in the consequent. The phrase as a whole is of sentential form, and the consequent is a variation in 4 steps of the material in the its first bar. Haydn basically rebounds around the chord notes of I and V6, first presenting them with profuse scalistic ornaments, then simply using them as passing notes, then ornating them slightly before using oblique polyphony for the final female cadence.

Technically speaking we continue applying the same performing devices we used in the antecedent only with one exception…, the accompaniment for bar 5 will played using rotation. This will help us managing better the melodic line of the oblique poliphony. In the last bar we switch to finger movement.

Modulation passage

This episodic passage develops the content of “A”’s consequent accompaniment in the treble of its consequent. Applying this compositional technique keeps the musical unit after the arpeggiated antecedent. Technically speaking we will apply finger movement for the arpeggios and legato passages, rotation to the oblique polyphony and forearm movement to the octaves. Harmonically speaking we modulate to the dominant, as it is expected, and we stand on it for two bars before moving into B.

Secondary theme “B”

The material on B shows a clear contrast with A in terms of its rhythm and its proportions. Rhythmic wise it makes generous use of tuplets which certainly enhances the tension towards the end. On the other hand, proportion wise it is symmetrical. The later together with the fact that it exhibits a “periodic” form, helps it to become a good complement of A.


The development explores the use of the three main elements: head of A, arpeggios and rotation; all of them extracted of A or the episode that follows it.

The first phrase opens with the “A”’s head followed by the material of the exposition’s episode presented by an important scaly upbeat. It is remarkable how the material of the episode is expanded to fill the space of what was occupied by the phrases in the exposition. Immediately after, we find the head of “A” used to explore the relative minor tonality. The chord progression applied to the theme’s head allows the expansion of the material so it doubles the proportions of its previous presentations. To finalise the development Haydn uses the same oblique poliphony passage he deployed to bridge into B. We can confidently say that this sonata development is actually a not-so-radical collection of variations of the main materials exposed in A and the modulating episode that follows it in the exposition. There are no evident traces of B in it.


This section is, as it is expected, a plain re-exposition. The episode suffers necessary harmonic changes to be re-routed to the tonic instead of the dominant.

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