The Horn

Contact Me

Receive Email Updates

The Infinite Variety Of Symphonic Form . Part One .

   What, exactly, is a symphony ?  n classical music , there are a variety of different  musical genres , such as  sonatas ,  chamber music , art songs , oratorios , cantatas , etc .  The symphony is one of them , but not the same thing as a symphony orchestra , a collection of musicians playing string, woodwind, brass and percussion instruments .  
     The origin of the word "symphony" comes from the Greek , meaning a coming together of sounds . "Sym " plus "phonos " or sound .  In the operas of the 16th and 17th century ,  what we usually call an overture is known as a "Sinfonia ", the    Italian for "Symphony ."   Later , composers began to write independent orchestral works called "Sinfonia " not intended as overtures to  operas , but similar in structure .  Usually a  brisk opening section, or movement , with a slower middle movement and an equally brisk last one, or finale .  Sometimes the sinfonia would begin with a stately slow introduction .  
    Of the numerous composers of symphonies in the 18th century ,  the only ones who are well known today are Mozart and his friend  Joseph Haydn . Haydn wrote no fewer than 104  of them, and there are 41 numbered ones by Mozart and some without numbers , and only a small number of these are still widely performed . All have  been recorded numerous times .  In the 18th century , a typical symphony by Haydn or Mozart has four movements , occasionally only three .  The first is usually rather lively and sometimes preceded by a slow introduction .  The first movement uses what is known as sonata form :  an exposition with a principal  theme plus a subsidiary theme in another key . The subsidiary theme is usually in what is called the "dominant " of the key of the symphony . In C major,  the dominant is the key of G major, in D major ,  A major .  In minor key symphonies , if the main key is C minor, the subsidiary theme will be in E flat major .  
   The exposition ends in the key of the subsidiary theme .  The next section is called the development -  the themes are  altered considerably  and  appear in keys which were not in the exposition .  The  main theme reappears in its original form in the final part, the recapitulation .   But there is still some development of the themes and there is not an exact repetition of the exposition .  In many symphonies, the  composer calls for the exposition to be repeated , but not all conductors do this .  This is their decision .  
      The second movement is slower and more relaxed in character , and more lyrical .   The third movement is  a minuet  in tripartite form :  the minuet plus a contrasting middle section called the trio , which uses a different theme .  The minuet is repeated  , but the composer does not have to write the whole thing  out and puts the sign "Dal Sego ", an  Italian term which indicates repetition of the first part .  The finale  is usually at  east as lively as the first movement and is usually also in sonata form .  
   With the arrival of Beethoven came  revolutionary new developments in the symphony , and the form would  never be exactly the same again with later composers .  Beethoven's first two symphonies are  similar to those of Haydn and Mozart , but the third , called "Eroica " by the composer is much longer and more complex than any previous symphony .  And it was inspired by extra musical events , specifically ,  the exploits of Napoleon , which Beethoven first admired  , even though he was enraged when  the Corsican general declared himself emperor of France .   Beethoven wanted to convey the idea of heroism ; no longer was  he writing sparkling, light-hearted  works for the delectation of  the aristocracy  , which   Haydn and Mozart had done .   The so -called Eroica is long, complex, rugged ,  and it was not nearly as easy for audiences to digest .  The slow movement s a sombre funeral march  , and the re is no longer a minuet , but a new kind of movement called a "Scherzo ",Italian for a joke .  
      The middle section called the Trio is still there , as well as the repeat of the first part .  The finale  is a kind of theme and variations  based on a melody  Beethoven had used for his only ballet score "The Creatures of Prometheus ."  Some critics were baffled by this strange new work .      
    
  Beethoven's world famous fifth symphony contains the famous   "Da Da Da Daaah notes , and is in C minor .  This movement is truly  revolutionary -  angry , rugged and intense .  Some have said that these  opening notes represent "Fate knocking at the door " but this claim is dubious .  The last movement  is unusual in that it  uses instruments not used before in symphonies : a piccolo,   three trombones ,  and  a contra bassoon .  The finale is  fiercely exultant and triumphant .  
      Beethoven's sixth symphony is unusual in that it  both tells a story and describes nature . This is the so-called "Pastoral " symphony , and is unusual in having five rather than four movements .  The first movement is described as  "Cheerful feelings upon arriving in the country . The  second and lower movement  is called "Scene at the brook " , and  portrays  peaceful relaxation  next to a brook, complete with portrayal of  its quiet  murmuring and  chirping birds , a cuckoo  and a quail .  
      The third movement is entitled "Merry gathering of the country folk  and is a  lively  dance complete with  imitations of bagpipes etc .  Then, without a pause  , a   storm breaks loose  , leading also without a pause to  the country folk  giving thanks for the end to the  storm as a shepherd plays his pipes .  
     The ninth symphony is the longest , most complex and  grandiose symphony which had ever been written and was the last of his nine symphonies .  The famous final movement features  a chorus and  four solo singers, soprano, alto tenor and bass , using    Friedrich Schiller's  "Ode To Joy ".  This was unprecedented in a symphony .  The first movement is in D minor and is  craggy and agitated  .  The second , instead of being slow , is now the scherzo , and as  old cliche goes, is "fast and furious ,
     with pounding  a pounding solo tympani , or kettle drum .   The third movement is the slow one ,  and is almost  ecstatic in its mystical  lyricism  .  The orchestra is also larger than normal, with piccolo as well as flutes ,  a contrabassoon along with the  bassoons,  three trombones and even percussion instruments in the finale .  On to part two .  
              











Posted: May 11 2017, 03:39 PM by the horn | with no comments
Add to Bloglines Add to Del.icio.us Add to digg Add to Facebook Add to Google Bookmarks Add to Newsvine Add to reddit Add to Stumble Upon Add to Shoutwire Add to Squidoo Add to Technorati Add to Yahoo My Web