So*na"ta (?), n. [It., fr. It. & L. sonare to sound. See Sound a noise.] Mus.
An extended composition for one or two instruments, consisting usually of three or four movements; as, Beethoven's sonatas for the piano, for the violin and piano, etc.
⇒ The same general structure prevails in symphonies, instrumental trios, quartets, etc., and even in classical concertos. The sonata form, distinctively, characterizes the quick opening movement, which may have a short, slow introduction; the second, or slow, movement is either in the song or variation form; third comes the playful minuet of the more modern scherzo; then the quick finale in the rondo form. But both form and order are sometimes exceptional.
© Webster 1913.