A symphony is an extended musical composition in Western classical music, written by composers, most often for orchestra. Although the term has had many meanings from its origins in the ancient Greek era, by the late 18th century the word had taken on the meaning common today: a work usually consisting of multiple distinct sections or movements, often four, with the first movement in sonata form. Symphonies are almost always scored for an orchestra consisting of a string section (violin, viola, cello, and double bass), brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments which altogether number about 30 to 100 musicians. Symphonies are notated in a musical score, which contains all the instrument parts. Orchestral musicians play from parts which contain just the notated music for their own instrument. Some symphonies also contain vocal parts (e.g., Beethoven's Ninth Symphony).
The word symphony is derived from the Greek word συμφωνία (symphonia), meaning "agreement or concord of sound", "concert of vocal or instrumental music", from σύμφωνος (symphōnos), "harmonious". The word referred to a variety of different concepts before ultimately settling on its current meaning designating a musical form.
In late Greek and medieval theory, the word was used for consonance, as opposed to διαφωνία (diaphōnia), which was the word for "dissonance". In the Middle Ages and later, the Latin form symphonia was used to describe various instruments, especially those capable of producing more than one sound simultaneously. Isidore of Seville was the first to use the word symphonia as the name of a two-headed drum[ citation needed ], and from c. 1155 to 1377 the French form symphonie was the name of the organistrum or hurdy-gurdy. In late medieval England, symphony was used in both of these senses, whereas by the 16th century it was equated with the dulcimer. In German, Symphonie was a generic term for spinets and virginals from the late 16th century to the 18th century.
In the sense of "sounding together," the word begins to appear in the titles of some works by 16th- and 17th-century composers including Giovanni Gabrieli's Sacrae symphoniae, and Symphoniae sacrae, liber secundus, published in 1597 and 1615, respectively; Adriano Banchieri's Eclesiastiche sinfonie, dette canzoni in aria francese, per sonare, et cantare, op. 16, published in 1607; Lodovico Grossi da Viadana's Sinfonie musicali, op. 18, published in 1610; and Heinrich Schütz's Symphoniae sacrae , op. 6, and Symphoniarum sacrarum secunda pars, op. 10, published in 1629 and 1647, respectively. Except for Viadana's collection, which contained purely instrumental and secular music, these were all collections of sacred vocal works, some with instrumental accompaniment.
In the 17th century, for most of the Baroque era, the terms symphony and sinfonia were used for a range of different compositions, including instrumental pieces used in operas, sonatas and concertos—usually part of a larger work. The opera sinfonia, or Italian overture had, by the 18th century, a standard structure of three contrasting movements: fast, slow, fast and dance-like. It is this form that is often considered as the direct forerunner of the orchestral symphony. The terms "overture", "symphony" and "sinfonia" were widely regarded as interchangeable for much of the 18th century.
In the 17th century, pieces scored for large instrumental ensemble did not precisely designate which instruments were to play which parts, as is the practice from the 19th century to the current period. When composers from the 17th century wrote pieces, they expected that these works would be performed by whatever group of musicians were available. To give one example, whereas the bassline in a 19th-century work is scored for cellos, double basses and other specific instruments, in a 17th-century work, a basso continuo part for a sinfonia would not specify which instruments would play the part. A performance of the piece might be done with a basso continuo group as small as a single cello and harpsichord. However, if a bigger budget was available for a performance and a larger sound was required, a basso continuo group might include multiple chord-playing instruments (harpsichord, lute, etc.) and a range of bass instruments, including cello, double bass, bass viol or even a serpent, an early bass wind instrument.
LaRue, Bonds, Walsh, and Wilson write in the second edition of The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians that "the symphony was cultivated with extraordinary intensity" in the 18th century.It played a role in many areas of public life, including church services, but a particularly strong area of support for symphonic performances was the aristocracy. In Vienna, perhaps the most important location in Europe for the composition of symphonies, "literally hundreds of noble families supported musical establishments, generally dividing their time between Vienna and their ancestral estate [elsewhere in the Empire]". Since the normal size of the orchestra at the time was quite small, many of these courtly establishments were capable of performing symphonies. The young Joseph Haydn, taking up his first job as a music director in 1757 for the Morzin family, found that when the Morzin household was in Vienna, his own orchestra was only part of a lively and competitive musical scene, with multiple aristocrats sponsoring concerts with their own ensembles.
LaRue, Bonds, Walsh, and Wilson's article traces the gradual expansion of the symphonic orchestra through the 18th century.At first, symphonies were string symphonies, written in just four parts: first violin, second violin, viola, and bass (the bass line was taken by cello(s), double bass(es) playing the part an octave below, and perhaps also a bassoon). Occasionally the early symphonists even dispensed with the viola part, thus creating three-part symphonies. A basso continuo part including a bassoon together with a harpsichord or other chording instrument was also possible.
The first additions to this simple ensemble were a pair of horns, occasionally a pair of oboes, and then both horns and oboes together. Over the century, other instruments were added to the classical orchestra: flutes (sometimes replacing the oboes), separate parts for bassoons, clarinets, and trumpets and timpani. Works varied in their scoring concerning which of these additional instruments were to appear. The full-scale classical orchestra, deployed at the end of the century for the largest-scale symphonies, has the standard string ensemble mentioned above, pairs of winds (flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons), a pair of horns, and timpani. A keyboard continuo instrument (harpsichord or piano) remained an option.
The "Italian" style of symphony, often used as overture and entr'acte in opera houses, became a standard three-movement form: a fast movement, a slow movement, and another fast movement. Over the course of the 18th century it became the custom to write four-movement symphonies,along the lines described in the next paragraph. The three-movement symphony died out slowly; about half of Haydn's first thirty symphonies are in three movements; and for the young Mozart, the three-movement symphony was the norm, perhaps under the influence of his friend Johann Christian Bach. An outstanding late example of the three-movement Classical symphony is Mozart's Prague Symphony, from 1786.
The four-movement form that emerged from this evolution was as follows:
Variations on this layout, like changing the order of the middle movements or adding a slow introduction to the first movement, were common. Haydn, Mozart and their contemporaries restricted their use of the four-movement form to orchestral or multi-instrument chamber music such as quartets, though since Beethoven solo sonatas are as often written in four as in three movements.
The composition of early symphonies was centred on Milan, Vienna, and Mannheim. The Milanese school centred around Giovanni Battista Sammartini and included Antonio Brioschi, Ferdinando Galimberti and Giovanni Battista Lampugnani. Early exponents of the form in Vienna included Georg Christoph Wagenseil, Wenzel Raimund Birck and Georg Matthias Monn, while later significant Viennese composers of symphonies included Johann Baptist Wanhal, Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf and Leopold Hofmann. The Mannheim school included Johann Stamitz.
The most important symphonists of the latter part of the 18th century are Haydn, who wrote at least 106 symphonies over the course of 36 years,and Mozart, with at least 47 symphonies in 24 years.
At the beginning of the 19th century, Beethoven elevated the symphony from an everyday genre produced in large quantities to a supreme form in which composers strove to reach the highest potential of music in just a few works. [ citation needed ] His Symphony No. 6 is a programmatic work, featuring instrumental imitations of bird calls and a storm; and, unconventionally, a fifth movement (symphonies usually had at most four movements). His Symphony No. 9 includes parts for vocal soloists and choir in the last movement, making it a choral symphony.Beethoven began with two works directly emulating his models Mozart and Haydn, then seven more symphonies, starting with the Third Symphony ("Eroica") that expanded the scope and ambition of the genre. His Symphony No. 5 is perhaps the most famous symphony ever written; its transition from the emotionally stormy C minor opening movement to a triumphant major-key finale provided a model adopted by later symphonists such as Brahms and Mahler.
Of the symphonies of Franz Schubert, two are core repertory items and are frequently performed. Of the Eighth Symphony (1822), Schubert completed only the first two movements; this highly Romantic work is usually called by its nickname "The Unfinished". His last completed symphony, the Ninth (1826) is a massive work in the Classical idiom.
Of the early Romantics, Felix Mendelssohn (five symphonies, plus thirteen string symphonies) and Robert Schumann (four) continued to write symphonies in the classical mold, though using their own musical language. In contrast, Hector Berlioz favored programmatic works, including his "dramatic symphony" Roméo et Juliette , the viola symphony Harold en Italie and the highly original Symphonie fantastique . The latter is also a programme work and has both a march and a waltz and five movements instead of the customary four. His fourth and last symphony, the Grande symphonie funèbre et triomphale (originally titled Symphonie militaire) was composed in 1840 for a 200-piece marching military band, to be performed out of doors, and is an early example of a band symphony. Berlioz later added optional string parts and a choral finale.In 1851, Richard Wagner declared that all of these post-Beethoven symphonies were no more than an epilogue, offering nothing substantially new. Indeed, after Schumann's last symphony, the "Rhenish" composed in 1850, for two decades the Lisztian symphonic poem appeared to have displaced the symphony as the leading form of large-scale instrumental music. However, Liszt also composed two programmatic choral symphonies during this time, Faust and Dante . If the symphony had otherwise been eclipsed, it was not long before it re-emerged in a "second age" in the 1870s and 1880s, with the symphonies of Anton Bruckner, Johannes Brahms, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Camille Saint-Saëns, Alexander Borodin, Antonín Dvořák, and César Franck—works which largely avoided the programmatic elements of Berlioz and Liszt and dominated the concert repertory for at least a century.
Over the course of the 19th century, composers continued to add to the size of the symphonic orchestra. Around the beginning of the century, a full-scale orchestra would consist of the string section plus pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets, and lastly a set of timpani.This is, for instance, the scoring used in Beethoven's symphonies numbered 1, 2, 4, 7, and 8. Trombones, which had previously been confined to church and theater music, came to be added to the symphonic orchestra, notably in Beethoven's 5th, 6th, and 9th symphonies. The combination of bass drum, triangle, and cymbals (sometimes also: piccolo), which 18th century composers employed as a coloristic effect in so-called "Turkish music", came to be increasingly used during the second half of the 19th century without any such connotations of genre. By the time of Mahler (see below), it was possible for a composer to write a symphony scored for "a veritable compendium of orchestral instruments". In addition to increasing in variety of instruments, 19th century symphonies were gradually augmented with more string players and more wind parts, so that the orchestra grew substantially in sheer numbers, as concert halls likewise grew.
Towards the end of the 19th century, Gustav Mahler began writing long, large-scale symphonies that he continued composing into the early 20th century. His Third Symphony, completed in 1896, is one of the longest regularly performed symphonies at around 100 minutes in length for most performances. The Eighth Symphony was composed in 1906 and is nicknamed the "Symphony of a Thousand" because of the large number of voices required to perform the work.
The 20th century saw further diversification in the style and content of works that composers labeled symphonies. [ citation needed ]Some composers, including Dmitri Shostakovich, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Carl Nielsen, continued to write in the traditional four-movement form, while other composers took different approaches: Jean Sibelius' Symphony No. 7, his last, is in one movement, Richard Strauss' Alpine Symphony, in one movement, split into twenty-two parts, detailing an eleven hour hike through the mountains and Alan Hovhaness's Symphony No. 9, Saint Vartan—originally op. 80, changed to op. 180—composed in 1949–50, is in twenty-four.
A concern with unification of the traditional four-movement symphony into a single, subsuming formal conception had emerged in the late 19th century. This has been called a "two-dimensional symphonic form", and finds its key turning point in Arnold Schoenberg's Chamber Symphony No. 1, Op. 9 (1909), which was followed in the 1920s by other notable single-movement German symphonies, including Kurt Weill's First Symphony (1921), Max Butting's Chamber Symphony, Op. 25 (1923), and Paul Dessau's 1926 Symphony.
Alongside this experimentation, other 20th century symphonies deliberately attempted to evoke the 18th century origins of the genre, in terms of form and even musical style, with prominent examples being Sergei Prokofiev's Symphony No. 1 "Classical" of 1916–17 and the Symphony in C by Igor Stravinsky of 1938–40.[ citation needed ]
There remained, however, certain tendencies. Designating a work a "symphony" still implied a degree of sophistication and seriousness of purpose. The word sinfonietta came into use to designate a work that is shorter, of more modest aims, or "lighter" than a symphony, such as Sergei Prokofiev's Sinfonietta for orchestra.
In the first half of the century, modernist composers including Edward Elgar, Gustav Mahler, Jean Sibelius, Carl Nielsen, Igor Stravinsky, Bohuslav Martinů, Roger Sessions, Sergei Prokofiev, Rued Langgaard and Dmitri Shostakovich composed symphonies "extraordinary in scope, richness, originality, and urgency of expression".One measure of the significance of a symphony is the degree to which it reflects conceptions of temporal form particular to the age in which it was created. Five composers from across the span of the 20th century who fulfil this measure are Jean Sibelius, Igor Stravinsky, Luciano Berio (in his Sinfonia, 1968–69), Elliott Carter (in his Symphony of Three Orchestras, 1976), and Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen (in Symphony/Antiphony, 1980).
From the mid-20th century into the 21st there has been a resurgence of interest in the symphony with many postmodernist composers adding substantially to the canon, not least in the United Kingdom: Peter Maxwell Davies (10),Robin Holloway (1), David Matthews (9), James MacMillan (4), Peter Seabourne (4), and Philip Sawyers (3).
Hector Berlioz originally wrote the Grande symphonie funèbre et triomphale for military band in 1840. Anton Reicha had composed his four-movement 'Commemoration' Symphony (also known as Musique pour célébrer le Mémorie des Grands Hommes qui se sont Illustrés au Service de la Nation Française) for large wind ensemble even earlier, in 1815, for ceremonies associated with the reburial of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette [ better source needed ] But after those early efforts, few symphonies were written for wind bands until the 20th century when more symphonies were written for concert band than in past centuries. Although examples exist from as early as 1932, the first such symphony of importance is Nikolai Myaskovsky's Symphony No. 19, Op. 46, composed in 1939. Some further examples are Paul Hindemith's Symphony in B-flat for Band, composed in 1951; Morton Gould's Symphony No. 4 "West Point", composed in 1952; Vincent Persichetti's Symphony No. 6, Op. 69, composed in 1956; Vittorio Giannini's Symphony No. 3, composed in 1958; Alan Hovhaness's Symphonies No. 4, Op. 165, No. 7, "Nanga Parvat", Op. 175, No. 14, "Ararat", Op. 194, and No. 23, "Ani", Op. 249, composed in 1958, 1959, 1961, and 1972 respectively; John Barnes Chance's Symphony No. 2, composed in 1972; Alfred Reed's 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th symphonies, composed in 1979, 1988, 1992, and 1994 respectively; eight of the ten numbered symphonies of David Maslanka; five symphonies to date by Julie Giroux (although she is currently working on a sixth ); Johan de Meij's Symphony No. 1 "The Lord of the Rings", composed in 1988, and his Symphony No. 2 "The Big Apple", composed in 1993; Yasuhide Ito's Symphony in Three Scenes 'La Vita', composed in 1998, which is his third symphony for wind band; John Corigliano's Symphony No. 3 'Circus Maximus, composed in 2004; Denis Levaillant's PachaMama Symphony, composed in 2014 and 2015, and James M. Stephenson's Symphony No. 2 which was premiered by the United States Marine Band ("The President's Own") and received both the National Band Association's William D. Revelli (2017) and the American Bandmasters Association's Sousa/Ostwald (2018) awards.
In some forms of English, the word "symphony" is also used to refer to the orchestra, the large ensemble that often performs these works. The word "symphony" appears in the name of many orchestras, for example, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the St. Louis Symphony, the Houston Symphony, or Miami's New World Symphony. For some orchestras, "(city name) Symphony" provides a shorter version of the full name; for instance, the OED gives "Vancouver Symphony" as a possible abbreviated form of Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.Additionally, in common usage, a person may say they are going out to hear a symphony perform, a reference to the orchestra and not the works on the program. These usages are not common in U.K. English.
The Classical period was an era of classical music between roughly 1730 and 1820.
In music, a cadenza is, generically, an improvised or written-out ornamental passage played or sung by a soloist or soloists, usually in a "free" rhythmic style, and often allowing virtuosic display. During this time the accompaniment will rest, or sustain a note or chord. Thus an improvised cadenza is indicated in written notation by a fermata in all parts. A cadenza will usually occur over the final or penultimate note in a piece, the lead-in or over the final or penultimate note in an important subsection of a piece. It can also be found before a final coda or ritornello.
A concerto is, from the late Baroque era, mostly understood as an instrumental composition, written for one or more soloists accompanied by an orchestra or other ensemble. The typical three-movement structure, a slow movement preceded and followed by fast movements, became a standard from the early 18th century.
Sonata, in music, literally means a piece played as opposed to a cantata, a piece sung. The term evolved through the history of music, designating a variety of forms until the Classical era, when it took on increasing importance. Sonata is a vague term, with varying meanings depending on the context and time period. By the early 19th century, it came to represent a principle of composing large-scale works. It was applied to most instrumental genres and regarded—alongside the fugue—as one of two fundamental methods of organizing, interpreting and analyzing concert music. Though the musical style of sonatas has changed since the Classical era, most 20th- and 21st-century sonatas still maintain the same structure.
Overture in music was originally the instrumental introduction to a ballet, opera, or oratorio in the 17th century. During the early Romantic era, composers such as Beethoven and Mendelssohn composed overtures which were independent, self-existing instrumental, programmatic works that presaged genres such as the symphonic poem. These were "at first undoubtedly intended to be played at the head of a programme".
Orchestration is the study or practice of writing music for an orchestra or of adapting music composed for another medium for an orchestra. Also called "instrumentation", orchestration is the assignment of different instruments to play the different parts of a musical work. For example, a work for solo piano could be adapted and orchestrated so that an orchestra could perform the piece, or a concert band piece could be orchestrated for a symphony orchestra.
A string quartet is a musical ensemble consisting of four string players: two violin players, a viola player and a cellist. It is also a musical composition written to be performed by such a group. The string quartet is one of the most prominent chamber ensembles in classical music; most major composers from the mid 18th century onwards wrote string quartets.
The cor anglais, or English horn in North America, is a double-reed woodwind instrument in the oboe family. It is approximately one and a half times the length of an oboe.
A symphonic poem or tone poem is a piece of orchestral music, usually in a single continuous movement, which illustrates or evokes the content of a poem, short story, novel, painting, landscape, or other (non-musical) source. The German term Tondichtung appears to have been first used by the composer Carl Loewe in 1828. The Hungarian composer Franz Liszt first applied the term Symphonische Dichtung to his 13 works in this vein.
Recitative is a style of delivery in which a singer is allowed to adopt the rhythms and delivery of ordinary speech. Recitative does not repeat lines as formally composed songs do. It resembles sung ordinary speech more than a formal musical composition.
In music, variation is a formal technique where material is repeated in an altered form. The changes may involve melody, rhythm, harmony, counterpoint, timbre, orchestration or any combination of these.
Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 1 in C major, Op. 21, was dedicated to Baron Gottfried van Swieten, an early patron of the composer. The piece was published in 1801 by Hoffmeister & Kühnel of Leipzig. It is not known exactly when Beethoven finished writing this work, but sketches of the finale were found to be from 1795.
Cyclic form is a technique of musical construction, involving multiple sections or movements, in which a theme, melody, or thematic material occurs in more than one movement as a unifying device. Sometimes a theme may occur at the beginning and end ; other times a theme occurs in a different guise in every part.
Turkish music, in the sense described here, is not the music of Turkey, but rather a musical style that was occasionally used by the European composers of the Classical music era. This music was modelled—though often only distantly—on the music of Turkish military bands, specifically the Janissary bands.
In music, a serenade is a musical composition or performance delivered in honor of someone or something. Serenades are typically calm, light pieces of music. The term comes from the Italian word serenata, which itself derives from the Latin serenus. Sense influenced by Italian sera "evening," from Latin sera, fem. of serus "late."
Sinfonia concertante is an orchestral work, normally in several movements, in which one or more solo instruments contrast with the full orchestra. It emerged as a musical form during the Classical period of Western music from the Baroque concerto grosso. Sinfonia concertante encompasses the symphony and the concerto genres, a concerto in that soloists are on prominent display, and a symphony in that the soloists are nonetheless discernibly a part of the total ensemble and not preeminent. Sinfonia concertante is the ancestor of the double and triple concerti of the Romantic period corresponding approximately to the 19th century.
Ludwig van Beethoven is one of the most influential figures in the history of classical music. Since his lifetime, when he was "universally accepted as the greatest living composer", Beethoven's music has remained among the most performed, discussed and reviewed. Scholarly journals are devoted to analysis of his life and work. He has been the subject of numerous biographies and monographs, and his music was the driving force behind the development of Schenkerian analysis. He is widely considered as among the most important composers, and along with Bach and Mozart, his music is the most frequently recorded.
The Symphony in D minor is the best-known orchestral work and the only mature symphony written by the 19th-century composer César Franck. The work is unusual in being in three, rather than the traditional four, movements. It employs a cyclic form, with important themes recurring in all three movements.
The symphonic poems of the Hungarian composer Franz Liszt are a series of 13 orchestral works, numbered S.95–107. The first 12 were composed between 1848 and 1858 ; the last, Von der Wiege bis zum Grabe, followed in 1882. These works helped establish the genre of orchestral program music—compositions written to illustrate an extra-musical plan derived from a play, poem, painting or work of nature. They inspired the symphonic poems of Bedřich Smetana, Antonín Dvořák, Richard Strauss and others.
A choral symphony is a musical composition for orchestra, choir, and sometimes solo vocalists that, in its internal workings and overall musical architecture, adheres broadly to symphonic musical form. The term "choral symphony" in this context was coined by Hector Berlioz when he described his Roméo et Juliette as such in his five-paragraph introduction to that work. The direct antecedent for the choral symphony is Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Beethoven's Ninth incorporates part of the Ode an die Freude, a poem by Friedrich Schiller, with text sung by soloists and chorus in the last movement. It is the first example of a major composer's use of the human voice on the same level as instruments in a symphony.
The unknown composer has to pay to get his compositions played by a good symphony.
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