The Development of the Programmatic Symphony from the 19th Century into the 21st CenturySince the early symphonies of Sammartini and Stamitz the orchestral symphony has underwent constant development. In the early nineteenth century Beethoven started a new form of the symphony when he composed a symphony based on programmatic music. The programmatic symphony is a composition that is written with non-musical influences. “Program music is instrumental music which tells a story illustrates literary ideas, or evokes pictorial scenes. Though the term originated with Listz, illustrative music has existed for as long as music itself.”(Kennedy p. 579)The form is more like a multi-movement tone poem that tells a story though music. The symphonies of Haydn, and Mozart were pieces written with music that was not influenced by non-musical ideas. Other symphonies that have been written that are programmatic are Symphonie Fantastique by Berlioz, Symphony no. 3 “Pastoral” by Vaughan Williams, and Metropolis Symphony by Michael Daugherty. This paper will show the similarities and differences between the programmatic symphonies of Beethoven, Berlioz, and Daugherty.
Ludwig Van Beethoven 1770-1827
The first major programmatic symphony was written by Ludwig Van Beethoven in 1807-08. Although it was not completed until 1808 there are sketches for the symphony that go as far back as 1803. This was his sixth symphony and it was in F major. The first performance of the symphony was on December 22, 1808 which was the same premier of his fifth symphony. This symphony has five movements. The instrumentation for the symphony includes two flutes and piccolo, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, two …
…also has expanded the size of the wind section of the orchestra with several more instruments. While Beethoven and Berlioz composed their symphonies as complete works Daugherty allows conductors to perform movements separately if they desire. This makes each movement more like a tone poem than a full symphony. It is easy to see though by the Dies Irae in the fifth movement and the storm like atmosphere of the fourth movement how Daugherty was influenced by these two composers who came over one hundred years before him.
In conclusion, the programmatic symphony has been used to create some of the greatest works of musical literature in the past two hundred years. In the next century composers will probably follow in these composers’ footsteps and expand the size of the orchestra to create new timbres and tell stories through tone painting in symphonies.