Music in History

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Baroque forms

Rondo  (Rondau ) is an orchestral form of the 17th century consisting of repeated "refrain" and different  "couplets"(see also :chaconne) . According to Willi Apel  it is not  for sure whether  there is a connection between this form  and the medieval Rondo. The rondo form  was used mainly by the French harpsichordist (F. Cuperin, Rameau and others) as well as  in orchestral and operatic music (Lully).
As Willi Apel indicates, the refrain, as well as each couplet,  is a well -marked string of 8 or 16 measures. Usually every couplet  focuses on a different  key: for example, the first is in tonic,  the second in dominant, the third in the relative minor.
In classical period, possible patterns include: ABA ,ABAGA, ABACADA. The number of couplets (themes)  may vary from piece to piece and the recurring elements  deviate sometimes  ( for example, they may be embellished or shorter).

The Barock forerunner  to Rondo  was the  ritornello. Rondo and ritornello are similar. The difference between them  is that in ritornello  the main theme returns  fragmented and  in different keys, while  rondo brings back its theme complete and in the same key.
At the end of the 18th century, Rondo  evolved in sonata rondo form. In this case, the second theme acts in a similar way to the second theme group in sonata form by appearing for first time  in a key other than the tonic and later being repeated in the tonic key. Unlike sonata form, thematic development does not need to occur except possibly in the coda.

As a character type, "Rondo" refers to music that is fast and vivacious- normally  "allegro". Many classical rondo give the folk music or traditional character (such as  Mozart's rondo in A minor, K 511). Music that  is defined as "rondo" normally has the character rondo and rondo form. On the other hand, there are examples of slow, reflective  works that are rondo in form but not in character

1.Willi Apel: Harvard dictionary of music, second edition, eighth printing, rondeau.

                   Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach - Rondo in G major - Poco andante

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