In the late 17th century, the term sonata, literally "sounded" in Italian, was used to distinguish instrumental music from vocal music such as the cantata. Most Baroque sonatas were chamber music—music for a small group of instrumental players—typically consisting of three or more movements, often in a fast-slow-fast movement sequence. Much of this music was written for the enjoyment of the players, mostly amateur instrumentalists from the merchant class and nobility. Thus, typical performances took place among friends in home and royal palaces.
Portrait of Three Musicians of the Medici Court | Anton Domenico Gabbiani | Florence c. 1687 | Galleria dell'Accademia
During the Baroque era, the sonata almost always used basso continuo for accompaniment. The most popular sonata forms were the solo sonata and trio sonata. The solo sonata was normally written with two lines of music: a solo instrument such as violin or flute and bass continuo. Depending on the performing resources, the performance could involve two or three performers: two players if the basso continuo is played on a single instrument such as lute or harpsichord; or three players if the basso continuo part is divided between a bass instrument such as cello and a chord playing instrument such as harpsichord.
Georg Philipp Telemann Portrait | Georg Lichtensteger (c. 1745) | Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel
Here's the first movement from a solo sonata by the great German composer Georg Philipp Telemann (1681–1767). His works include church music, oratorios, and a immense amount of instrumental music, especially sonatas.
Sonata in G Major TWV 41: G4byGeorg Philipp Telemann (1681–1767) | First Movement: Cantabile
A Musical Party | Gerard van der Kuijl | (1604-1673) | Wikimedia Commons
The trio sonata was normally written with three lines of music: two solo instruments such as oboe or flute and bass continuo. Depending on the performing resources, the performance could involve three or four performers: three players if the basso continuo is played on a single instrument such as lute or harpsichord; or four players if the basso continuo part is divided between a bass instrument such as bassoon and a chord playing instrument such as lute.
Arcangelo Corelli | Hugh Howard (1697) | The Stirling Smith Art Gallery & Museum
Arcangelo Corelli (1653–1713) was an Italian violinist and composer of the middle Baroque era. He was a pivotal force in the development of the sonata and concerto and helped establish the violin as a stable of instrument ensembles.
Trio Sonata in D minor Op. 3 No. 5 by Arcangelo Corelli (1653–1713) | Five Movements: Grave, Andante, Allegro, Largo, Allegro
Roman Pantheon | c. 126 AD | Arcangelo Corelli's tome is in the Pantheon. Once a Roman temple, the Pantheon is one of the best preserved Roman buildings, having been converted to a Catholic Church in the 7th century.
sonata, solo sonata, trio sonata, Georg Philipp Telemann, Arcangelo Corelli