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What Is A Movement In Music? Best Things to Know 2023

What Is A Movement In Music Best Things to Know 2023
  • Max Kuehn

You’ve likely noticed the occasional pauses musicians make between large sections of a live symphonic concert. These pauses mark the transition from one segment or movement to the next.

In this article, Fidlar will show you what is a movement in music theory, parts of the movement, and what is its importance. Let’s find out!

Movement Music Definition

A long piece of classical music can be broken down into smaller pieces. This makes it easier to listen to and perform and adds a little contrast. This is like having a 4-course meal, instead of eating a large plate of pasta with lots of cheese.

The idea of music moving in a certain way, like pasta, goes back a long time. Concertos were created before Vivaldi’s time and usually have three movements.

There are two fast movements so soloists or soloists have the opportunity to show off their talents (obviously). A slower movement in the middle allows for more expression or romance.

The symphony was not yet a reality. Instead, composers like Bach and Handel created orchestral suites. These are similar to concertos and are broken up into movements or chunks. Most of them are based on traditional dances such as minuets or gavottes.

What Are The Parts Of Movement In Music?

First Movement Sonata Form

Although it is difficult to generalize, the standard symphonic first movement (etc) follows what is called sonata form. It has three sections: exposition, development, and recapitulation.

The theme or themes are introduced at the beginning, then they are developed in different ways and finally repeated in some way at the end. This statement is overly simplified.

Many movements, for example, include material at the end or beginning that is not in the pattern. These are generally known as introductions and codas and transitional passages that connect the different parts.

It is not a rule that all themes should be introduced at the start, nor how many.

Sonata form also includes key structures. It is common for the first and second themes in different keys to change from major to minor or vice versa. This transitional passage modulates the movement.

It is not uncommon for the development to begin in the same key that the exposition ends, and for the recapitulations to return to the keys at the beginning of the exposition.

Great composers know how to bend the rules to achieve their goals, and that is what makes them so great.

Second Movements

First movements (allegro) are generally fast and brisk. Second movements (adagio and andante) are much slower and are not to be expected.

Although slow movements are a relative term, second movements are often referred to as “slow movements”. A slow movement that is “moving” or emotional can be a good one.

Sometimes, it will consist of a single tune that develops more through subtle key changes than secondary themes. Although there is no rule that says a subsequent or second movement must be directly related to the opening, this is often the case.

Third Movements

Over the years, the structure of symphonic music has changed. From the 18th century, it was common for sonatas, quartets, and symphonies to have four movements while concerti had only three.

A minuet, trio, or scherzo was the “extra” movement. A minuet, which is a triple-time dance, has two sections that are contrasting and the third being the repetition of the previous. Scherzo, which literally means “joke“, is a section that is lighthearted and playful in a fast minuet.

Final Movements

The composer can bring everything together in the final movements, and build to a climax that will excite the audience into long and loud applause.

This has been the norm since the Romantic era. Concert planners have many options to make the evening a success. For the final movements, sonata form is quite common.

Codas are lengthy and complicated which allow the performers to finish their performance. Concerti allow soloists to give their best in order to win their bouquet.



The cadenza is a special feature of concerti movements. The cadenza is a section in which the soloist, or soloists in double concertsi, plays solo with the orchestra at rest and the conductor silent.

In the past, soloists used to improvise at such points. This often led to problems as they would fly off to new places and have difficulty returning to their original position.

Since the Classical period, this practice has diminished, but the soloist still has the freedom to express their individuality in the way they interpret the piece’s tempo.

Some modern performers have revived the improvised cadenza when performing works by Vivaldi, for instance. Nigel Kennedy’s highly-acclaimed interpretation of The Four Seasons by Nigel Kennedy is an example.

Can A Symphony Have More Than Four Movements?

Can A Symphony Have More Than Four Movements

Yes. A symphony may have as many movements or as few as the composer wants. There is no rule that says a symphony should only have four movements. Some even prefer to keep the same characteristics as the previously mentioned movements.

This is evident in Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique”. Instead of having four movements, Symphonie Fantastique contains five. Symphonie Fantastique’s third movement, A Scene Set in the Fields, doesn’t follow the traditional minuet or scherzo.

Fazil Say’s “Universe Symphony” is a six-movement composition. Universal Symphony, which is interestingly based on astronomy research, especially of the expansion and storms in Jupiter, as well as the supernova.

Another excellent example is Igor Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat, translated as “The Soldier’s Tale”. The movements in L’Histoire du Soldat can be described as a chaptered story.

  • The Soldier’s March: First movement
  • Airs by a stream: 2nd movement
  • Pastorale: Third movement
  • Royal March: 4th Movement
  • The Little Concert: 5th movement
  • Three Dances: Tango – Waltz – Ragtime: 6th movement
  • Dance of the Devil: 7th Movement
  • Grand Choral: 8th Movement
  • Triumphal March of The Devil: 9th movement

L’Histoire du Soldat is approximately an hour long. It is one of Stravinsky’s most important works.

Can A Symphony Have Less Than Four Movements?

Can A Symphony Have Less Than Four Movements

Some symphonies can be made up of just three movements. Mozart’s solo piece “Piano Sonata No. 3″ is one example. 8 in A minor” It is a very short piece and can be performed in under 25 minutes.

Jean Sibelius’s Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 47″ only contains three movements. Sibelius’s Violin Concerto has been a standard for both violin players and audience members since its 1904 performance.

Symphonies that are single-movement are not uncommon.

Sibelius’s musical composition “Symphony No. 7 in C major Op. “105” has only one movement. The majority of Allan Pettersson’s symphonies can be found in one continuous piece, along with Edmund Rubbra’s last two symphonies.

The four-movement symphony, while it is a common practice, is not a standard. Every classical musician used the four-movement symphony before Beethoven. Musical “rules” back then were fairly simple.

As more musicians became known, notably Haydn, Mozart, Schumann, and Mahler, musical harmony became more flexible.

Why Do Composers Divide Their Pieces Into Movements?

Movements can be thought of as milestones. Each milestone brings listeners closer to the end of the composition.

As the story progresses, the suspense builds. They keep listeners at the edge of their seats, eager to find out what happens next.

Composers can also use movements to organize and contrast themes. They are especially important in longer pieces where one theme can become repetitive and boring.

As we have seen, movement can be divided into four themes.

The first movement is lively and upbeat; it marks the beginning of a journey. The second movement can be slow, lyrical or gentle depending on the theme that follows “hero” from the first movement.

The “hero” is now discovering himself and going through several transitional stages to prepare for the next move.

The adventure begins in the third movement. It is lively, funny, and almost wild.

The last movement ends with an exciting bang. It is fast and furious and demonstrates the orchestra’s virtuosic prowess.

It leaves no stone unturned. It gives the audience reason to cheer and stand up.

Why Is Movement Called “Movement” In Music?

Why Is Movement Called “Movement” In Music

The act of moving is defined as a change in place or position. A concerto or symphony may not contain any movement, which makes the term less relevant. Is this true?

There is no evidence that the term “movement”, although it was used in concertos and symphonies music, was first associated with tempo, or relative speed.

Nathaniel Bailey’s 1721 Dictionary defines movement, for example:

Allegro is a term used in music(k), when the movement is fast.

Movement is used to determine the tempo for a section. It’s the easiest way for a section to change from very slow to fast (first, second and third movements of a concerto).

It is possible that the term movement could also be used metaphorically. Music is a natural motivator for humans. It has been repeatedly proven that music has an emotional connection.

As a result, when a composer moves from one movement of music to another, the audience is affected by the orchestra’s changes in tempo and rhythm.

Movement In Concerto Vs Symphony Movement: What’s The Difference?

There are many similarities between concertos and symphonies. One is that they are performed with a large orchestra. They were very popular in Classical music, 1750-1800, and early Baroque music.

There are many characteristics that make them different.

Concertos, for example, are typically performed with three rather than four movements. This isn’t always the case. Some concertos have more than five movements while others only have three.

Same goes for symphonies. As seen in Igor Stravinsky’s 11th movement in “L’Histoire du Soldat”,

While both performances follow the same musical structure, classical concertos include cadenzas between movements. Symphonies do not have this; instead, they perform as one unit and rarely stop between movements.

These are the three-movement structures of concertos:

  • First movement: Presto, allegro; fast and lively
  • Second movement: Slow and lyrical Lento or Adagio
  • Third and final movement: Allegrissimo, allegro vivace; fast, furious

Concert orchestras are performed today by younger musicians. Concertino is a smaller group of instruments. Concertino literally means “little ensemble” in English.

Symphony orchestras are more sophisticated because musicians concentrate on original repertoire at a higher level.


That’s all about the movement’s music. If you have any questions or comments or want to correct something, feel free to tell us. Thanks for reading this article!

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