Symphony (from the Greek. “Consonance”) is a genre of symphonic instrumental music of the many-part canonized form of fundamental worldview content.
A symphony, as a rule, is a composition for an orchestra, consisting, as a rule, of several parts. This is one of the most important genres of European music. In the modern sense, the word “symphony” came into use relatively recently, in the 70s. XVIII century., But it itself is of very ancient origin.
“Symphony” in Greek means “consonance.” In ancient times, the so-called singing of a choir or ensemble in unison, as well as any harmonious, harmonious 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”. Polyphonic vocal compositions – madrigals, canzons – were distributed in the music of the Renaissance. 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 such an introduction turned into an overture.
In the XVIII century. the symphony gradually separated from vocal music and began its independent existence. She acquired a classic look in the 1780-1790s. in the works of the great Austrian composers J. Haydn and V. A. Mozart. From this time on, the brilliant path of the symphony in European and world music begins, just then it becomes the most important, central genre of musical creativity.
The classical symphony consists of four contrasting parts. Together they form a sonata-symphonic cycle. The cyclic structure allows the composer to express a variety of feelings and moods, to create a musically generalized image of the 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 time like a novel or a theatrical play does.
The first part of the classical symphony is energetic, effective, at a fast pace, as a rule, it occupies a dominant position in the cycle. For her, composers choose one of the most complex forms – sonata. The sonata form makes it possible to compare contrasting, even conflicting images – heroic and lyrical, gloomy and bright, solemn and gentle. These images then develop, change, and as a result acquire a new character, new features. The first part of the symphony is therefore distinguished by its particular versatility and wealth.
The second part is usually slow. Her character is determined by lyrical, contemplative moods, there are melodies in her that are 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 in Beethoven’s Heroic Symphony, in the second part, a mournful march sounds, mournful and majestic.
The third part in the symphonies of Haydn and Mozart is a minuet. Minuets in classical symphonies are similar to sketches, pictures from nature. Haydn’s minuets are full of folk fun, close to peasant dances; with Mozart they are lyrical, sometimes with a touch of dramatic seriousness. Beethoven replaced the scherzo minuet with fast-moving, lively music, often with a humorous tone.
The fourth part is the final. Like the first, it is being written at a fast pace, but internally it is not so contrasted. If the meaning of the first part is a conflict of images and the dramatic development of the action, then in the final, the statement and the debriefing come to the fore. It is no coincidence that finals are often written in the form of a rondo, based on the circular return of the same theme, i.e., on the proclamation of the same musical thought. Simultaneously with the sonata-symphonic cycle, an orchestral composition was formed, for which symphonies were created – the symphony orchestra.
The peak in the historical development of the symphony is rightfully considered the work of Beethoven. Each of his symphonies is a new, individual version of the genre, each of them concludes a whole world of philosophical ideas, is the result of the hard work of the composer’s thought.
The 9th Beethoven Symphony, crowning his career, opens a new page in the history of the genre. In its final part, the ode “To Joy” by F. Schiller sounds, affirming the idea of a worldwide brotherhood of mankind. This central idea for Beethoven’s creativity is proclaimed in the powerful sound of the choir and orchestra. So the symphony becomes vocal. Composers of subsequent generations inherited it: vocal symphonies were written by G. Berlioz, Mahler, A.N. Scriabin, I.F. Stravinsky, Shostakovich.
A poetic text makes the content of the symphony more specific, and such compositions relate to program music. A symphony can also become a program if the composer simply sends her a name. Haydn had similar works, for example, the original “Farewell Symphony”, culminating in the gradual departure of the musicians. In the 6th (“Pastoral”) Beethoven’s symphony, all five parts are entitled.