Symphony - 20th Century

20th Century

At the beginning of the 20th century, Gustav Mahler wrote long, large-scale symphonies. His Eighth Symphony, for example, was composed in 1906 and is nicknamed the "Symphony of a Thousand" because of the forces required to perform it. The 20th century also saw further diversification in the style and content of works that composers labeled symphonies (Anon. 2008). Some composers, including Dmitri Shostakovich, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Carl Nielsen, continued to write in the traditional four-movement form, while other composers took different approaches: Jean Sibelius' Symphony No. 7, his last, is in one movement, whereas Alan Hovhaness's Symphony No. 9, Saint Vartan—originally op. 80, changed to op. 180—composed in 1949–50, is in twenty-four.

There remained, however, certain tendencies: symphonies were still almost always orchestral works. Designating a work a "symphony" still implied a degree of sophistication and seriousness of purpose. The word sinfonietta came into use to designate a work that is shorter, of more modest aims, or "lighter" than a symphony, such as Sergei Prokofiev's Sinfonietta (Kennedy 2006; Temperley 2001).

There has also been diversification in the size of orchestra required. While Mahler's symphonies call for extravagant resources, Arnold Schoenberg's two Chamber Symphonies, opp. 9 (1906) and 38a (1906-39), and the Chamber Symphonies by Franz Schreker (1916), George Enescu (1954), Edison Denisov (1982, 1994) and John Adams (1992) are scored for chamber groups.

The American composer Roger Sessions wrote nine symphonies. The first was composed in 1927, the ninth in 1978.

The Argentine composer Alberto Williams wrote nine symphonies. The first was composed in 1907, the ninth in 1939.

The Austrian-British composer Egon Wellesz wrote nine symphonies. The first was composed in 1945, the ninth in 1970–71, the fourth, op. 70 (1951–53), is subtitled "Austriaca".

The Austrian composer Franz Schmidt (referred to in Fischer 2003,, as "second only to Mahler in importance"), wrote four symphonies between 1896 and 1933, of which the Second and Fourth were not in the traditional four-movement form (although both of these symphonies made explicit reference to it).

The Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos wrote twelve symphonies. The first was composed in 1916, the twelfth in 1957.

The Czech composer Bohuslav Martinů wrote six symphonies. The first was composed in 1942, the sixth (subtitled "Fantasies symphoniques") in 1953.

The English composer Peter Maxwell Davies has written eight symphonies, and is completing a ninth in 2012. The first was composed in 1974–76, the eighth (subtitled "Antarctic") in 2000.

The English composer Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji wrote, alongside orchestral and orchestral-choral symphonies (none of which had been performed by the end of the century), symphonies for organ in the French tradition, as well as seven symphonies for solo piano: six numbered ones and a Symphonie nocturne (Rapoport 2001).

The French composer Henri Dutilleux wrote two symphonies. The first was composed in 1951, the second (subtitled "Le Double") in 1959.

The German composer Karl Amadeus Hartmann wrote eight symphonies. The first was written in 1950, the eighth in 1960–62.

The German composer Hans Werner Henze wrote ten symphonies. The first was written in 1947 (revised in 1963, 1991, and finally, renamed Kammerkonzert in 2005) the tenth in 1997–2000. Between the fourth (1955) and fifth (1962) he also composed a Vokalsimfonie (1955) derived from his opera König Hirsch.

The Mexican composer Carlos Chávez wrote six symphonies. The first (Sinfonía de Antígona) was written in 1933, the sixth in 1961–62.

The Polish composer Witold Lutosławski wrote four symphonies. The first was written in 1941–47, the fourth in 1988–92.

The Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev wrote seven symphonies. The first was written in 1916-17, the seventh in 1951-52.

The Russian composer Alfred Schnittke wrote nine numbered symphonies. The first was written in 1969-74, the ninth in 1996-97.

The Spanish composer Tomás Marco has composed six symphonies. The first was written in 1976, the sixth in 1992.

The Swiss composer Arthur Honegger wrote five symphonies. The first was composed in 1930, the fifth (subtitled "Di tre re") in 1950.

In the 20th and early 21st century symphonies have been written for wind ensemble and band. Notable examples are Paul Hindemith's Symphony in B-flat for Band from 1951 (Hansen 2005, 95), and Alan Hovhaness's Symphonies No. 4, op. 165, No. 7, "Nanga Parvat", op. 175, No. 14, "Ararat", op. 194, and No. 23, "Ani", op. 249—composed in 1958, 1959, 1961, and 1972 respectively—which are symphonic works for school and college wind bands. Hovhaness is also notable for having written 67 numbered symphonies, whilst Englishman Havergal Brian wrote 32.

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