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rondo(rŏn`dō, rŏndō`), instrumental musical form in which the opening section is repeated after each succeeding section containing contrasting thematic material. The complex rondeau of French keyboard music of the 17th cent., related to the poetic form, the rondel, was the most frequently occurring form. It was the predecessor of the 18th-century rondo, which became the usual concluding movement of the classical sonata.
a common musical form based on the alternation of an unchanging, principal theme (the refrain) and continually changing episodes.
The rondo developed out of folk songs in which the lead-in (different each time) was counterposed to a stable refrain. The traditional, or couplet, rondo was widely used in 17th- and 18th-century French harpsichord music. The Viennese classical composers often used the rondo for the final movements of their symphonies and sonatas. In these compositions the rondo is characterized by a thematic contrast between the refrain and the episodes (two or, more rarely, three), the use of transitional sections between the refrain and the episodes, and a coda that completes the movement.
Later, the rondo was used as an independent form, and its compositional structure became freer. The rondo form has also been used in vocal genres, including the art song, the aria, and opera scenes, as well as in ballet music. Features of the rondo are found in many similar musical forms.
V. P. BOBROVSKII and M. L. GASPAROV