A symphony is usually a composition for orchestra, usually consisting of several parts. This is one of the main genres of European music. In the modern sense, the word “symphony” came into use relatively recently, in the 70s. XVIII century., It is the very same very ancient origin.
“Symphony” in Greek means “consonance”. In ancient times, the so-called singing of the choir or ensemble in unison, as well as any harmonious, melodious combination of tones. In the Middle Ages, the word disappeared from use, and its new life began in the Renaissance. But now a different meaning was put into the word “symphony”. In the music of the Renaissance, polyphonic vocal compositions were circulated – madrigals, canzons. They usually opened with an instrumental introduction, which was called a symphony. When in the XVII century. an opera arose, it also began with a symphony – later this introduction turned into an overture.
In the XVIII century. the symphony gradually separated from vocal music and began its independent existence. She found a classic look in the 1780-1790s. in the works of the great Austrian composers J. Haydn and W. A. Mozart. From this time begins the brilliant path of the symphony in European and world music, then it becomes the most important, central genre of musical creativity.
The symphony of the classical type consists of four contrasting parts. Together they form a sonata-symphonic cycle. The cyclical structure allows the composer to express the most diverse feelings and moods, to create a musically generalized image of an era. The symphonies of Mozart, L. Beethoven, L. I. Tchaikovsky, I. Brahms, G. Mahler, D. D. Shostakovich give us the opportunity to experience the unique atmosphere of the time, just like a novel or theatrical play.
The first part of the classical symphony – energetic, effective, at a fast pace, as a rule, occupies a dominant position in the cycle. For her, composers choose one of the most complex forms – sonata. Sonata form makes it possible to compare contrasting, even conflicting images – heroic and lyrical, gloomy and light, solemn and tender. These images then develop, change and as a result acquire a new character, new traits. The first part of the symphony is distinguished, therefore, by its particular multiplicity and wealth.
The second part is usually slow. Its character is determined by lyrical, contemplative moods, in it there are melodies, close to the song, romance. This is a respite after the turbulent events of the first part. But there are retreats. For example, in one of Haydn’s symphonies and Beethoven’s “Heroic Symphony” in the second part, a mournful march sounds mournful and majestic.
The third movement in the symphonies of Haydn and Mozart is the minuet. Minuets in classical symphonies are like sketches, pictures from life. Haydn’s minuets are full of popular fun, close to peasant dances; in Mozart, they are lyrical, sometimes with a hint of dramatic seriousness. Beethoven replaced the minuet of the scherzo with music of a swift, lively character, often with a humorous color.
The fourth part is the final. Like the first, it is written at a fast pace, but internally not so contrasting. If the meaning of the first part lies in the conflict comparison of images and the dramatic development of the action, then in the final the statement, summing up, comes to the fore. It is not by chance that the finals are often written in the form of a rondo, based on the circular return of the same theme, that is, on the proclamation of the same musical thought. Simultaneously with the sonata-symphonic cycle, an orchestral composition was formed, for which symphonies were created – a symphony orchestra.
The pinnacle in the historical development of the symphony is rightly considered Beethoven’s work. His each symphony is a new, individual version of the genre, each of them encloses a whole world of philosophical ideas, is the result of the hard work of the composer’s thought.
Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, crowning his creative path, opens a new page in the history of the genre. In its final part, the ode to “Joy” by F. Schiller, which affirms the idea of a worldwide brotherhood of humanity, sounds. This central idea for Beethoven’s creativity is proclaimed in the powerful sound of the choir and orchestra. So the symphony becomes vocal. Her composers of subsequent generations inherited it: G. Berlioz, Mahler, A. N. Scriabin, I. F. Stravinsky, Shostakovich wrote vocal symphonies.
The poetic text makes the content of the symphony more specific, and such compositions relate to program music. A program symphony can become even if the composer simply prefaces her name. Similar works were still in Haydn’s, for example, the original “Farewell Symphony”, culminating in the gradual departure of musicians. In the 6th (Pastoral) symphony of Beethoven all five parts are entitled. We see that the program design forced Beethoven to increase the number of parts in the symphony and move away from the classical construction of the cycle. Later, composers are even more free to handle the form of a symphony, increasing the number of parts.