MUSIC 260 - Symphony

Laura Gray

Estimated reading time: less than 1 minute

Table of contents

What is a Symphony Anyway?

Langford, A History of the Symphony, p. 238: A basic definition:

“a large-scale work for orchestra, usually in multiple movements or sections of contrasting tempo, meter, and key, which also demonstrates some kind of connection stretching across the whole work.”

The Symphony means different things in different eras:

  • Grew in significance as a cultural artifact
    • Western European
  • Early symphony (pre-classical)
  • Classical: Haydn, Mozart
  • Beethoven
  • Romantic period:
    • Post-Beethoven
    • Post-Wagner: anachronistic?
  • Modern period:
    • “The Modern Symphony”
    • Manifesto, artistic stand
    • Reinterpret formal tension:
      • in age of weakening tonal structures
      • neoclassicism
  • Contemporary

Here is Beethoven, symphony no. 5, I

Instruments of The Orchestra

Philharmonia Orchestra video guide to the instruments of the orchestra

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