from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Symphony or symphony (from the Greek σύμφωνος sýmphōnos , ' sounding together', 'harmonious') is a name for instrumental works of form and scoring that have changed over the centuries . In the 18th century the classical form of the symphony developed, which maintained a dominant position in the field of orchestral music until the 20th century. This is a work for orchestra without soloists consisting of several (usually three or four, less often five) movements . Since the 9th Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven , the use of voices (soloists and / or choir ) has also been in use, but without giving up the dominant function of the orchestra.

Development of the Symphony



In 17th century baroque music , the Italian term sinfonia originally meant a work for orchestra , very rarely with singing. It is used in church music as well as in opera or ballet as an introductory piece ( overture ), inter-act music or musical illustration of the event (e.g. battle music). Until the late 18th century, overtures with the sequence of movements fast - slow - fast were called "Sinfonia", based on the overtures in Neapolitan operas, the Neapolitan opera symphonia (in contrast to the French overture ).

Johann Sebastian Bach used the term sinfonia not only for the instrumental opening movements in some of his cantatas , but also for the opening movement of the second partita of his keyboard exercise and for his 15 three-part symphonies for piano.

Gallant style / early classic

From 1740 onwards, the three-part form ( fast - slow - fast ) of the Sinfonia solidified and emancipated itself as an independent form of movement from the Neapolitan opera, where it previously only had an opening and intermittent function by mostly also taking central ideas from the arias and Ensembles pre-eminently exposed. In contrast to the previous connection to the figured bass , the so-called upper voice movement becomes strong. B. the strings take a (new) central position in the instrumentation. Wind instruments were used more "accompanying".

The important composers of the pre-classical symphony include the Italian composers Giovanni Battista Sammartini and Antonio Brioschi , as well as Johann Stamitz ( Mannheim School ) and Georg Christoph Wagenseil ( Vienna School ). In the course of the 18th century, with its spread to Northern Europe, the Italian three-movement form of the sinfonia was expanded to include the minuet , an additional movement inserted before the final movement - especially in the symphonies of the Mannheim and Vienna Schools.


The classical symphony from the middle of the 18th century is mainly associated with the composers Joseph Haydn ( 104 symphonies ), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart ( over 50 symphonies ) and Ludwig van Beethoven ( nine symphonies ). The most important movement is the first, the so-called first movement , which is usually in sonata form with a possibly slow introduction (as a reminiscence of the French overture ) and introduces and processes two opposing themes (main theme and secondary theme). The second movement is a slow movement, often in song form , the third a minuet or later a scherzo (spoken: [ 'skɛɐʦo ]). Since Beethoven, the Scherzo sometimes appears in the second position, the slow movement in the third position. The fourth movement - the finale - is usually a rondo , a sonata movement or a sonata rondo , in individual cases also a variation movement ( Eroica , Brahms Fourth )

The key sequence is usually handled strictly in the classical symphony. For each classical symphony, a key can be specified in which the work begins and (mostly) ends. The corner movements (first movement and finale ) are composed in this key, as is usually the third movement. The slow movement, on the other hand, is usually in a related key, the dominant , subdominant , parallel or mediant key .

Overview: formal scheme of the classical symphony
sentence shape tempo key
1st sentence, "head sentence
Sonata form fast
(for example Allegro)
Basic key ( tonic )
2nd movement Song form or
sonata form or
variation form
(Adagio, Andante, ...)
Dominant or
subdominant or
major parallel or
minor parallel
in Romanticism also:
relationship in thirds
3rd movement Minuet or
medium fast (minuet)
fast to very fast (scherzo)
Root key
4th movement,
Sonata movement form or
rondo or sonata rondo or
variation form
(Allegro, Vivace, Presto, ...)
Root key

Ludwig van Beethoven

For the later Romanticism, Ludwig van Beethoven is the most important point of reference in earlier music history. Some composers even despaired of the "titanic" model, for example Johannes Brahms did not dare to compose a symphony for a long time. Beethoven conducted the so-called thematic-motivic work (i.e. the use of related musical elements and fragments) to a density that dominated almost every measure. In this way, the emotional content experienced an intensified contrast, especially in the symphonic head movements, sometimes a conflictual nature related to the tragic drama (especially 3rd symphony and 5th symphony ).

In the course of this dramatization of the musical expression, Beethoven strengthened the orchestral apparatus with additional horns (three horns in the 3rd and four horns in the 9th symphony), gave them melodic functions ( 3rd symphony ), added trombones , a third timpani and a contrabassoon and added a piccolo . All instruments can fulfill any function, a motif can wander through all voices. In the 9th symphony he put the Scherzo in front of the slow movement, in the 5th symphony he combined the last two movements. In the 9th, the choir and soloists joined the orchestra. Another innovation was the frequent use of relationships in thirds .

The inclusion of extra-musical content in the Classical Symphony can also be traced back to Beethoven: In the 6th symphony ( pastoral ) he included natural sound events (e.g. bird calls in the 2nd movement, which bears the title Scene at the Bach ; storm and thunderstorm in the 4th of the same name) . Sentence). In the 9th Symphony he used the explicit text of the poem An die Freude by Friedrich Schiller for a large-scale vocal section (soloists, choir) in the 4th movement. The vocal section was preceded by musical quotations from the three previous sentences and the introductory words “Oh friends, not these tones!”.

This vocal symphonic, initiated by Beethoven, was later continued by Gustav Mahler in some of his symphonies.


The romantic symphony can be divided into two areas. On the one hand, the classical symphony is continued in romantic tonal language - here are above all Franz Schubert ( eight symphonies ), Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (five symphonies, plus twelve string symphonies), Robert Schumann (four symphonies), Anton Bruckner (eight symphonies, plus two early works and one unfinished), Johannes Brahms (four symphonies), Felix Draeseke (four symphonies), Pjotr ​​Iljitsch Tschaikowski (six symphonies, plus Manfred symphony ), Antonín Dvořák (nine symphonies), Gustav Mahler (nine symphonies, plus one unfinished ) and Jean Sibelius (seven symphonies), on the other hand, attempts are being made to break up the form of the symphony by integrating an extra-musical program , which led to the so-called symphonic poetry - especially with Hector Berlioz ( Symphonie fantastique ), Franz Liszt and Richard Strauss .

The genre of the symphony increasingly broke away from the traditional, four-movement classical symphony in the course of the romantic epochs. The order of the sentences was often reversed and the number of sentences varied. The unity of the keys was also no longer regarded as binding: Gustav Mahler's 5th Symphony begins in C sharp minor, but ends in D major. The interlacing of motifs was often chosen as the new ordering principle of the symphonic cycle : motifs and themes were processed across the board in several movements of a work or, in the transition to the 20th century, raised to the design principle of an entire symphony, so that a uniform, intrinsically differentiated musical organism was created. The expansion of the performance apparatus also led to the development of the special form of the symphony cantata , which connects the symphony with human singing .

20th and 21st century music

Since the beginning of the 20th century there has hardly been a uniform term for a symphony. Although symphonies continued to be produced - albeit in ever smaller numbers - these are extremely variable in terms of style, playing time and orchestral line-up. The chamber music symphonies by Darius Milhaud occupy an extreme position, each lasting only a few minutes. In addition, symphonies were written by composers such as Sergei Prokofjew , Dmitri Shostakowitsch , Bohuslav Martinů , Nikolai Mjaskowski , Karl Amadeus Hartmann , Roger Sessions , Anton Webern , Hanns Eisler , Richard Mohaupt , Martin Scherber , Alan Hovhaness , Fritz Geißler , Friedrich Goldmann , Max Butting , Siegfried Matthus , Günter Kochan , Friedrich Schenker , Giselher Klebe , Hans Werner Henze , Wilhelm Kaiser-Lindemann , Peter Maxwell Davies , Philip Glass , Krzysztof Meyer , Krzysztof Penderecki , Allan Pettersson , Alfred Schnittke , Heinrich Sthamer , Mieczysław Weinberg or Robert Simpson .

See also


Web links

Commons : Symphony  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Symphony  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Wilhelm Gemoll : Greek-German school and hand dictionary. Munich \ Vienna 1965.