Variants of sonata form as seen in Alban Berg's Piano Sonata, Op 1, and Sergei Prokofiev's Piano Sonata No 3 in A minor, Op 28

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A.)


Music Performance

First Committee Member

Tian Ying - Committee Chair


Alban Berg's Piano Sonata, Op. 1 and Sergei Prokofiev's Piano Sonata No. 3 in A minor, Op. 28, are both single-movement sonatas composed in the early twentieth century. This essay presents an analysis of these two sonatas emphasizing the treatment of their materials in relation to traditional sonata form. The focus of this study is on two issues: first, structure on the small scale, and, second, their special designs of sonata form.Berg's Piano Sonata, Op. 1, presents both tonal and atonal harmony, such as augmented triads, whole-tone formations, and chords made by perfect and altered fourths. Themes are elaborated in a method, which was later called "developing variation," and the sections in sonata form are better recognized by themes rather than key centers because Berg deliberately weakened the tonal effect of cadences.Prokofiev employed chords retaining clearly tonal functions, and used harmonic idioms rooted in Russian music practice in his Piano Sonata No. 3, such as the exchange of two dominant seventh chords with roots that are a tri-tone apart. The motives and themes have high consistency in pitch structure and melodic contours. Its sonata form holds innovations including the unusual thematic introduction, presenting thematic fragments before the themes, the elimination of the first theme in the recapitulation, and the transformation of the second subject into an augmentation of its preceding melody.



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