Eighteenth-century commentators on the layout of what is now labeled as a sonata-form exposition tended to avoid the container metaphors that have been so popular with later generations of music theorists. Instead of regarding expositions as involving opposing thematic groups, most writers from the 1700’s viewed them more in terms of what might be described as a journey along a path leading toward a cadence in a new key, with resting points along the way articulating the various legs of the journey. Such a stance is particularly effective in dealing with expositions composed during the 1760’s and early 1770’s, many of which resist ready parsing according to concepts and terminology that were developed during the nineteenth century and beyond.

In this presentation, I will apply the 18th-century “journey metaphor” to various expositions from galant symphonies (limiting myself to those expositions in which the first two legs seem to form a clear unit). In cases where the specific exposition seems also to invite application of modern sonata-form labels, I will do so. But when they don’t, I won’t.

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