Richard Wagner, it is said, looked down on "sonata form" as being too constraining. Roughly speaking, he objected to the long music passages with unchanging rhythm, with repeating cadences, that could be called algebraic. Specifically, he claimed he was not at all interested in Beethoven's pieces written in that style, such as the "Quartet in C Major", preferring those in which his predecessor deviated from it.

He referred to the portion of Beethoven's legacy composed in that style as the "sonata-form Beethoven," or "sonata Beethoven," which sounds kind of awkward in English.

Is there an adjectival form of the word "sonata" that sounds more natural?

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    The full (subscription-only OED lists sonatical [adj.] Obsolete rare (but they don't list sonatic). Mar 8, 2020 at 17:57
  • @FumbleFingers: hmm ... How does sonatical (or sonatic, for that matter) sound to YOU?
    – Ricky
    Mar 8, 2020 at 18:13
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    As implied by @Joachim, in your specific context there's no problem about whether you'd be understood (so long as you've got the same first five letters, you could follow it with just about anything that looks vaguely "adjectival"). But if I were writing something like that, I wouldn't waste my time checking to find "unusual" forms in dictionaries (which might or might not exist). I'd simply rephrase it so the issue went away. Mar 8, 2020 at 18:21
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    Did you mean “adjectival form” or “adjective from”?
    – tchrist
    Mar 8, 2020 at 18:22
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    I doubt Wagner said it in English. Translating into natural English is appropriate. Trying to keep both the form and the meaning of the original is often a fool's errand.
    – CJ Dennis
    Mar 10, 2020 at 4:01

1 Answer 1


I think "sonatic" works best here, and will be easily deducible, especially in this context.

"Sonatine" is already in use for the plural of sonatina, 'a short sonata'. As "sonic" and "sonata" both stem from the Latin "sonare", that association seems suitable.

Once the results on Google Books are filtered using 'music' as an additional keyword, it seems the word has already been used for this specific purpose on several occasions, for instance in The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 6, 1920:

"The Scherzo was treated by Chopin in a paradoxical way: from a part of a sonatic cycle, he raised it to complete independence."

  • Cool. Thank you.
    – Ricky
    Mar 8, 2020 at 18:15
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    Yeah. Somebody wrote that once. If you wish to avoid accusations of pretentiousness @FumbleFingers is right.
    – JeremyC
    Mar 8, 2020 at 22:46
  • Why is using obscure or rare words pretentious when there's (hardly) an alternative? I realize this is not a common word - that is quite obvious from my post - but it is a possible and even logical adjective that's understandable, and that's what the OP was after.
    – Joachim
    Mar 9, 2020 at 0:21
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    @Joachim: Pavlov and his Yorkies. "If you're so smart, why ain't you rich." You know.
    – Ricky
    Mar 10, 2020 at 6:43

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