The main theme of a famous rondo, the final movement of Beethoven's Pathétique piano sonata About this soundPlay 

Rondo and its French part-equivalent, rondeau, are words that have been used in music in a number of ways, most often in reference to a musical form but also to a character type that is distinct from the form.

Despite the common etymological root, rondo and rondeau are essentially different as musical forms. Rondeau is a vocal musical form that was typically developed as of the 13th century (as monophonic music) and as of the 14th century (as polyphonic music), although both of them nearly disappeared from the repertoire by the beginning of the 16th century onward.[1][2][3] Rondo, on the other hand, is an instrumental musical form developed typically as of the 17th century.[4]


Typical tonal structure of classical seven-part rondo, late 18th and early 19th centuries[5]
  A B A C A B' A
Major key I V I VI, IV or
parallel minor
Minor key I III
or V
I VI or IV I I I

In rondo form, a principal theme (sometimes called the "refrain") alternates with one or more contrasting themes, generally called "episodes", but also occasionally referred to as "digressions" or "couplets". Possible patterns in the Classical period include: ABA, ABACA, or ABACABA.[6] These are sometimes designated "first rondo", "second rondo", and "third rondo", respectively. The first rondo is distinguished from the three-part song form principally by the fact that at least one of the themes is a song form in itself, but the difference in melodic and rhythmic content of the themes in the rondo form is usually greater than in the song form, and the accompanimental figuration in the parts of the rondo (unlike the song form) is usually contrasted.[7] The number of themes can vary from piece to piece, and the recurring element is sometimes embellished and/or shortened in order to provide for variation.

A Baroque predecessor to the rondo was the ritornello. Ritornello form was used in the fast movements of baroque concertos, and in many baroque vocal and choral works. The ripieno (tutti) plays the main ritornello theme, while soloists play the intervening episodes. As typical of Baroque continuo playing, in the tutti sections the soloists also play as part of the ensemble; while in the solo sections most of the remaining instruments in the ensemble may stop, in order to provide some transparency to the soloist(s), or may be used sparsely (in either case, the solos are accompanied thoroughly or punctuated by a harpsichord or the like, together with a violoncello da gamba or the like).[8] While Rondo form is similar to ritornello form, it is different in that ritornello brings back the subject or main theme in fragments and in different keys, but the rondo brings back its theme complete and in the same key. Cedric Thorpe Davie is one author, however, who considers the ritornello form the ancestor, not of the rondo form, but of the classical concerto form (which also occurs, as a form, in many a classical-era aria.)[9]

A common expansion of rondo form is to combine it with sonata form, to create the sonata rondo form. Here, the second theme acts in a similar way to the second theme group in sonata form by appearing first 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.

Examples of rondo form

Other Languages
العربية: روندو (نمط)
беларуская: Ронда
български: Рондо
Boarisch: Rondo (Musi)
bosanski: Rondo
català: Rondó
čeština: Rondo
Cymraeg: Rondo
dansk: Rondo
Deutsch: Rondo (Musik)
eesti: Rondo
Ελληνικά: Ροντώ
español: Rondó
euskara: Rondo
فارسی: روندو
français: Rondo (musique)
galego: Rondó
한국어: 론도
Bahasa Indonesia: Rondo
italiano: Rondò
עברית: רונדו
ქართული: რონდო
қазақша: Рондо
Limburgs: Rondeau
日本語: ロンド形式
norsk nynorsk: Rondo
português: Rondó
română: Rondo (muzică)
русский: Рондо
Simple English: Rondo
slovenčina: Rondo (hudba)
slovenščina: Rondo
српски / srpski: Рондо
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Rondo
suomi: Rondo
svenska: Rondo
українська: Рондо (музика)
Tiếng Việt: Rondo
walon: Rondea
中文: 回旋曲