Symphony - 19th Century

19th Century

With the rise of established professional orchestras, the symphony assumed a more prominent place in concert life between approximately 1790 and 1820.

Beethoven dramatically expanded the symphony. His Symphony No. 3 (the Eroica), has a scale and emotional range that sets it apart from earlier works. His Symphony No. 5 is arguably the most famous symphony ever written. His Symphony No. 6 was a programmatic work, featuring instrumental imitations of bird calls and a storm, and a convention-defying fifth movement. His Symphony No. 9 takes the unprecedented step (for a symphony) of including parts for vocal soloists and choir in the last movement, making it a choral symphony (however, a minor composer, Daniel Steibelt had written a piano concerto with a choral finale four years earlier, in 1820). Hector Berlioz, who coined the term "choral symphony", built on this concept in his "dramatic symphony" Roméo et Juliette while explaining his intent in the five-paragraph introduction in that work's score (Berlioz 1857, 1). Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, a work famous for its innovative orchestration (Berlioz 2002, xv) is also a programme work and has both a march and a waltz and five movements instead of the customary four.

Notable early-romantic symphonists include Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Schumann. Late-romantic symphonists include Bruckner, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Saint-Saëns, Mahler, Franck, and Dvořák.

By the end of the 19th century, some French organists (e.g., Charles-Marie Widor and his students Charles Tournemire and Louis Vierne) named some of their organ compositions symphony: Their instruments (many built by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll) allowed an orchestral approach (Kaye 2001; Smith 2001; Thomson 2001).

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