Definition and background:
An instrumental genre in several movements for a soloist or an ensemble. The original usage for the term " sonata " implied a composition that was to be played rather than sung. Later, the term " sonata " came to be understood as a four movement piece: slow, fast, slow, fast, as was used in the church sonata ( sonata da chiesa), or allemande, courante, sarabande, and gigue, as was used in the chamber sonata ( sonata da camera). As the sonata developed, it became longer and adopted the sonata-allegro form for the first movement, which was generally fast. The following movement was generally somewhat slower, and the number of movements varied, but was generally about three. a composition in three sections. exposition, development and recapitulation. the exposition uses two themes or subjects, and usually concludes with a coda, or short tail-piece.
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Wikipedia - Glossary of Musical Terminology
Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary
ORB -- Medieval Music Glossary