Symphony Information

In Western classical music, a symphony is an extended musical composition, scored almost always for orchestra. "Symphony" does not necessarily imply a specific form though most are composed according to the sonata principle. Many symphonies are tonal works in four movements with the first in sonata form and this is often described by music theorists as the structure of a "classical" symphony, although many symphonies by the acknowledged classical masters of the form, Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven, do not conform to this model.

The word symphony derives from Greek συμφωνία, meaning "agreement or concord of sound", "concert of vocal or instrumental music", from σύμφωνος, "harmonious" . This Greek word was used to describe an instrument mentioned in the Book of Daniel once identified by scholars as a bagpipe . However, more recent scholarly opinion points out that the word in the Book of Daniel is siphonia , and concludes that the bagpipe did not exist at so early a time, though the name of the "zampogna" could still have been derived from this word . In late Greek and medieval theory, the word was used for consonance, as opposed to diaphonia, which was the word for dissonance . In the Middle Ages and later, the Latin form symphonia was used to describe various instruments, especially those capable of producing more than one sound simultaneously . Isidore of Seville was the first to use the word symphonia as the name of a two-headed drum, and from ca. 1155 to 1377 the French form symphonie was the name of the organistrum or hurdy-gurdy. In late medieval England, symphony was used in both of these senses, whereas by the sixteenth century it was equated with the dulcimer. In German, Symphonie was a generic term for spinets and virginals from the late 16th century to the 18th century . In the sense of "sounding together" the word begins to appear in the titles of some works by 16th- and 17th-century composers including Giovanni Gabrieli , Adriano Banchieri , Lodovico Grossi da Viadana , and Heinrich Schütz .

In the 17th century, for most of the Baroque period, the terms symphony and sinfonia were used for a range of different compositions, including instrumental pieces used in operas, sonatas and concertos—usually part of a larger work. The opera sinfonia, or Italian overture had, by the 18th century, a standard structure of three contrasting movements: fast; slow; fast and dance-like. It is this form that is often considered as the direct forerunner of the orchestral symphony. The terms "overture", "symphony" and "sinfonia" were widely regarded as interchangeable for much of the 18th century.

Wikipedia, Symphony, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symphony (as of Apr 7, 2010)

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