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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
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