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[Gr.,=sounding together], a sonatasonata
, in music, type of instrumental composition that arose in Italy in the 17th cent.

At first the term merely distinguished an instrumental piece from a piece with voice, which was called a cantata.
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 for orchestra.

The Italian operatic overture, called sinfonia, was standardized by Alessandro ScarlattiScarlatti, Alessandro
, 1660–1725, Italian composer. He may have studied with Carissimi in Rome, where his first opera was produced in 1679. In 1684 he went to Naples as master of the royal chapel and there composed operas for the royal palace and chamber music for the
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 at the end of the 17th cent. into three sections, the first and last being fast and the middle one slower in tempo. Since these sinfonie had little musical connection with the operas they preceded, they could be played alone in concert. It became customary in the early 18th cent. to write independent orchestral pieces in the same style, which were the first real symphonies.

G. B. SammartiniSammartini, Giovanni Battista
, c.1701–75, Italian composer. Sammartini lived most of his life in Milan. He was influential in the development of the Classical style of Haydn and others.
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 wrote a number of works that influenced and partially defined symphonic form and style. Johann StamitzStamitz, Johann
, 1717–57, Bohemian-German composer. Stamitz came to Mannheim (1741) and became (1745) concertmaster of the Mannheim orchestra. He made it the best in Europe.
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, who was leader of the Mannheim group of composers, was one of the first to add a second lyrical theme in the first movement and to expand the symphony's three movements to four. Other important contributions to the development of the symphony were made by C. P. E. BachBach, Carl Philipp Emanuel
, 1714–88, German composer; second son of J. S. Bach, his only teacher. While harpsichordist at the court of Frederick the Great, where his chief duty for 28 years (1738–67) was to accompany the monarch's performances on the flute, he wrote
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, Johann Christian BachBach, Johann Christian
, 1735–82, German musician and composer; son of J. S. Bach. He went to Italy in 1754, became a Roman Catholic, and composed church music and operas. In 1760 he became organist of the Milan Cathedral.
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, C. H. GraunGraun, Carl Heinrich
, 1704–59, German composer, best known for his oratorio Der Tod Jesu (1755), for many years performed annually in Germany. As musical director to Frederick the Great, who wrote the libretto of Graun's Montezuma
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, and F. J. GossecGossec, François Joseph
, 1734–1829, Belgian composer; pupil of Rameau. In 1784 he organized the École Royale de Chant and taught (1795–1816) composition at its successor school, the Paris Conservatory.
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It was HaydnHaydn, Franz Joseph
, 1732–1809, Austrian composer, one of the greatest masters of classical music. As a boy he sang in the choir at St. Stephen's, Vienna, where he received his principal musical training.
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 and MozartMozart, Wolfgang Amadeus
, 1756–91, Austrian composer, b. Salzburg. Mozart represents one of the great peaks in the history of music. His works, written in almost every conceivable genre, combine luminous beauty of sound with classical grace and technical perfection.
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, however, who synthesized the techniques of all preceding schools into the Viennese classical symphony. This composition consisted of four movements—the first, a fast sonata-form movement; the second, a slow movement; the third, a dance, usually a minuet; and the fourth, a fast finale, usually a rondo and frequently a combination of sonata form and rondo. BeethovenBeethoven, Ludwig van
, 1770–1827, German composer. He is universally recognized as one of the greatest composers of the Western European music tradition. Beethoven's work crowned the classical period and also effectively initiated the romantic era in music.
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 expanded the dimensions of this form and intensified the element of personal expression far beyond the styles of Haydn and Mozart. He also initiated the use of a chorus in the symphony.

After Beethoven the classical ideal was continued in the symphonies of SchubertSchubert, Franz Peter
, 1797–1828, Austrian composer, one of the most gifted musicians of the 19th cent. His symphonic works represent the best legacy of the classical tradition, while his songs exemplify the height of romantic lyricism.
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, MendelssohnMendelssohn, Felix
(Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn) , 1809–47, German composer; grandson of the Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn. Mendelssohn was one of the major figures in 19th-century European music.
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, and SchumannSchumann, Robert Alexander
, 1810–56, German composer. Both as a composer and as a highly articulate music critic he was a leader of the romantic movement. He studied theory with Heinrich Dorn and piano with Friedrich Wieck, whose daughter Clara he married.
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, although the classical elements are often overshadowed by romantic traits—repetition in place of actual thematic development, profusion of themes rather than severely limited thematic material, and concern for mood and atmosphere in orchestral color and tone painting. Mainly through the device of thematic transformation, BerliozBerlioz, Louis-Hector
, 1803–69, French romantic composer. He abandoned medical study to enter the Paris Conservatory as a composition student. In 1830 his Symphonie fantastique was first performed in Paris, marking a bold new development in program music.
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 adapted the symphonic style and form to program musicprogram music
Instrumental music of the 19th and 20th cent. that endeavors to arouse mental pictures or ideas in the thoughts of the listener—to tell a story, depict a scene, or impel a mood.
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 in his Symphonie fantastique, a procedure that was transformed by LisztLiszt, Franz
, 1811–86, Hungarian composer and pianist. Liszt was a revolutionary figure of romantic music and was acknowledged as the greatest pianist of his time. He made his debut at nine, going thereafter to Vienna to study with Czerny and Salieri.
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 into the symphonic poemsymphonic poem,
type of orchestral composition created by Liszt, also called tone poem. Discarding classical principles of form, it begins with a poetic or other literary inspiration.
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 and brought to its height by Richard StraussStrauss, Richard
, 1864–1949, German composer. Strauss brought to a culmination the development of the 19th-century symphonic poem, and was a leading composer of romantic opera in the early 20th cent.
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Reacting strongly to the romantic orchestral style, BrahmsBrahms, Johannes
, 1833–97, German composer, b. Hamburg. Brahms ranks among the greatest masters of the romantic period. The son of a musician, he early showed astonishing talent in many directions; he chose as a boy to become a pianist.
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 revived the classical model as defined by Beethoven. Although his harmony, melodic formulas, and use of orchestral color are romantic, Brahms's formal designs and developmental procedures carry on and elaborate on the classical style. Bruckner combined classical formal outlines with the chromatic harmonies and extended melodic structures of the Wagnerian style, and his symphonies influenced those of MahlerMahler, Gustav
, 1860–1911, composer and conductor, born in Austrian Bohemia of Jewish parentage. Mahler studied at the Univ. of Vienna and the Vienna Conservatory.
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 in their huge orchestral dimensions. Other important romantic symphonists were DvořákDvořák, Antonín
, 1841–1904, Czech composer. He studied at the Organ School, Prague (1857–59) and played viola in the National Theater Orchestra (1861–71) under Smetana.
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 and TchaikovskyTchaikovsky, Peter Ilyich
, 1840–93, Russian composer, b. Kamsko-Votkinsk. Variant transliterations of his name include Tschaikovsky and Chaikovsky. He is a towering figure in Russian music and one of the most popular composers in history.
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 in the 19th cent. and SibeliusSibelius, Jean Julius Christian
, 1865–1957, Finnish composer. Sibelius was a highly personal, romantic composer, yet at the same time he represents the culmination of nationalism in Finnish music. He studied in Berlin (1889) and with Karl Goldmark in Vienna (1890).
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 in the 20th cent.

The symphony has been treated with unprecedented freedom by contemporary composers, as illustrated by StravinskyStravinsky, Igor Fedorovich
, 1882–1971, Russian-American composer. Considered by many the greatest and most versatile composer of the 20th cent., Stravinsky helped to revolutionize modern music.

Stravinsky's father, an actor and singer in St.
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's Symphony of Psalms, BlochBloch, Ernest
, 1880–1959, Swiss-American composer. Among his teachers were Jaques-Dalcroze and Ysaÿe. He taught at the Geneva Conservatory, 1911–15, and at the Mannes School, New York, 1917–19; he was director of the Cleveland Institute of Music,
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's Israel, which includes voices, WebernWebern, Anton von
, 1883–1945, Austrian composer and conductor; pupil of Arnold Schoenberg. He conducted theater orchestras in Prague and in various German cities until 1918, devoting himself thereafter to composition and teaching.
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's Symphony for nine solo instruments, HindemithHindemith, Paul
, 1895–1963, German-American composer and violist, b. Hanau, Germany. Hindemith combined experimental and traditional techniques into a distinctively modern style. After studying at the Frankfurt Conservatory, he began his career as a viola player.
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's Symphony for Concert Band, and Roy HarrisHarris, Roy,
1898–1979, American composer, b. Lincoln co., Okla. Harris was a pupil of Arthur Farwell and Nadia Boulanger. He began to compose c.1925, ultimately producing more than 200 works.
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's Folksong Symphony and Symphony for Voices. Other important American symphonists are Aaron CoplandCopland, Aaron
, 1900–1990, American composer, b. Brooklyn, N.Y. Copland was a pupil of Rubin Goldmark and of Nadia Boulanger, who introduced his work to the United States when she conducted his Symphony for Organ and Orchestra in 1925.
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, Virgil ThomsonThomson, Virgil,
1896–1989, American composer, critic, and organist, b. Kansas City, Mo. Thomson studied in Paris with Nadia Boulanger. Until about 1926 he wrote in a dissonant, neoclassic style, but after his 16-minute quintet Sonata da chiesa
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, Walter PistonPiston, Walter,
1894–1976, American composer and teacher, b. Rockland, Maine. Piston studied at Harvard and with Nadia Boulanger in Paris; he joined the faculty of Harvard in 1926. He became a Guggenheim Fellow in 1934.
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, Roger SessionsSessions, Roger,
1896–1985, American composer and teacher, b. Brooklyn, N.Y. Sessions was a pupil of Horatio Parker at Yale and of Ernest Bloch. He taught (1917–21) at Smith, leaving to teach at the Cleveland Institute of Music as Bloch's assistant.
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, Henry CowellCowell, Henry Dixon
, 1897–1965, American composer and pianist, b. Menlo Park, Calif., largely self-educated, studied musicology in Berlin (1931–32). Cowell experimented with new musical resources; in his piano compositions he introduced the tone cluster, played with
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, Randall Thompson, and Howard HansonHanson, Howard,
1896–1981, American composer, teacher, and conductor, b. Wahoo, Nebr. In 1921, Hanson won the Prix de Rome, becoming the first composer to enter the American Academy there. From 1924–64 he was director of the Eastman School of Music, Rochester, N.Y.
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See R. Simpson, ed., The Symphony (2 vol., 1972); D. F. Tovey, Essays in Musical Analysis: Symphonies (1935, repr. 1972); R. Nadeau, The Symphony (rev. ed. 1974); H. Chappell, Sounds Magnificent (1986).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a musical work in sonata form, intended for performance by a symphony orchestra; one of the most important genres of symphonic music. Some symphonies include parts for chorus or for vocal soloists. Symphonies have also been written for string orchestras, brass bands, folk-instrument orchestras, and other ensembles.

A symphony usually consists of four movements: the first, in the form of a sonata allegro; the second, slow and lyrical; the third, a minuet or scherzo; and the fourth, a finale, frequently in rondo form, with dance or song themes. The symphony is the highest form of instrumental music, surpassing all other forms in its potential for embodying significant ideas and intentions.

The term “symphony” did not acquire its present meaning until the 18th century. In ancient Greece the word symphonia meant certain intervals or instruments. In Western Europe the term “symphony” referred to consonance, music in general, or singing. During the 16th century the term was applied to individual works, initially vocal and instrumental ones. The Sacrae symphoniae of G. Gabrieli (Italy, 16th and early 17th centuries), H. L. Hassler, and H. Schütz (Germany, 17th century) were major vocal and instrumental religious compositions. After the early 17th century, instrumental preludes—parts of suites, cantatas, and especially operas—were usually called symphonies. Of importance in the development of the classical symphony were orchestral preludes to operas (overtures), particularly the Venetian and, to an even greater degree, the Neapolitan sinfonias (A. Scarlatti, N. Porpora, G. Pergolesi, and G. B. Sammartini, for example). Fast and slow movements were contrasted (fast—slow—fast) and features of the sonata form emerged in these works.

During the 18th century the symphony became a concert genre independent of the opera and assimilated elements of many other genres. For a long time the symphony was similar to the divertimento and the orchestral serenade. An important phase in the development of the symphony is associated with the Mannheim school. Italian, Austrian, and French composers also contributed to the development of the symphony. During the mid-18th century the minuet became one of the standard movements of the symphony.

The symphony achieved maturity with the works of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, representatives of the Viennese classical school. The creative work of Haydn, the composer of 104 symphonies, encompasses a broad range, from symphonies similar to the suite and the divertimento to the 12 London symphonies (1791–95), which are distinguished for their completely defined cyclic structure and individual movements, their emphasis on thematic development, the increasing importance of the finale, and unity of conceptualization. Written before Haydn’s London symphonies, Mozart’s last and most significant symphonies (approximately 50) include the lyrical Symphony in G minor and the majestic Symphony in C major (the “Jupiter”). The symphonic form was enriched by Beethoven, in whose compositions heroic spirit, dramatism, and a philosophical foundation became very important. In most of his symphonies Beethoven used the scherzo instead of the minuet. His most outstanding symphonies are the third (the “Eroica”), the fifth, the sixth (the “Pastoral”), the seventh, and the ninth, which calls for four vocal soloists and a chorus.

The romantic composers preserved the traditional cyclic pattern of the symphony but changed its content. A brilliant example of the lyrical symphony, an important romantic genre, is the Symphony in B minor by F. Schubert, who composed eight symphonies. This line of development was continued in Mendelssohn’s five symphonies, which often represent musical depictions of scenes. Thus, symphonies acquired the programmatic features typical of romantic compositions. Among the romantics’ programmatic works are the brilliantly innovative Symphonie fantastique by Berlioz, who composed four symphonies, and Liszt’s Faust Symphony and Symphony to Dante’s “Divina Commedia,” which were written later. However, during the romantic period programmatic ideas were most frequently embodied in one-movement forms such as the symphonic poem and the fantasia. R. Schumann’s four symphonies are in the tradition of Beethoven’s symphonies, as well as Schubert’s lyrical epic Symphony in C major. The last of Saint-Saëns’ three symphonies, as well as Franck’s Symphony in D minor, reflect Wagner’s influence. The most outstanding symphonic composer of the late 19th century and early 20th centuries was G. Mahler, who completed nine symphonies, some of which include vocal parts.

In the West major symphonies were composed by representatives of the new national schools, including the late-19th-century composer A. Dvorak (Bohemia) and the 20th-century composers K. Szymanowski (Poland), E. Elgar and R. Vaughan Williams (Great Britain), and J. Sibelius (Finland). The French composers A. Honegger and D. Milhaud wrote symphonies distinguished for their innovativeness. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries the full-scale symphony prevailed, and many works were written for expanded orchestra. Later, the chamber symphony, modest in scope and intended for an ensemble of soloists, gained importance.

The symphony was an important genre in Russian music. The most outstanding Russian symphonies were written by A. P. Borodin (two finished symphonies, the second of which is known as the “Bogatyrs’ “), Tchaikovsky (six symphonies, including the “Pathetique” and the “Manfred” Symphony, a programmatic work), A. K. Glazunov (eight finished symphonies), A. N. Scriabin (three), and Rachmaninoff (three).

The symphony has also been favored by Soviet composers, who have written many outstanding works in the genre. Among the Soviet symphonists are N. Ia. Miaskovskii (27 symphonies), S. S. Prokofiev (seven), D. D. Shostakovich (15), an A. I. Kha-chaturian (three). Major symphonies have been written by composers from the Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Latvia, Estonia, and other Soviet republics.


Becker, P. Simfoniia ot Betkhovena do Malera. Leningrad, 1926. (Translated from German.)
Popova, T. Simfoniia: Poiasnenie. Moscow-Leningrad, 1951.
55 sovetskikh simfonii. Leningrad, 1961.
Weingartner, F. Ispolnenie klassicheskikh simfonii, vol. 1. Moscow, 1965. (Translated from German.)
Konen, V. Teatr i simfoniia, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1975.
Iarustovskii, B. M. Simfonii o voine i mire. Moscow, 1966.
Brenet, M. Histoire de la symphonie à orchestre. Paris, 1882.
Nef, K. Geschichte der Sinfonie und Suite. Leipzig, 1921.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. an extended large-scale orchestral composition, usually with several movements, at least one of which is in sonata form. The classical form of the symphony was fixed by Haydn and Mozart, but the innovations of subsequent composers have freed it entirely from classical constraints. It continues to be a vehicle for serious, large-scale orchestral music
2. a piece of instrumental music in up to three very short movements, used as an overture to or interlude in a baroque opera
3. any purely orchestral movement in a vocal work, such as a cantata or oratorio
4. short for symphony orchestra
5. in musical theory, esp of classical Greece
a. another word for consonance Compare diaphony
b. the interval of unison
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


(tool, product)
Lotus Development's successor to their Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet. Unlike 1-2-3, Symphony allowed a limited form of multitasking. The user could switch manually between it and MS-DOS and separate graph and spreadsheet windows could be opened simultaneously and would be updated automatically when cells were changed. In addition, a small word processor could be opened in a third window. These all could be printed out on the same report. Symphony could read and write Lotus 1-2-3 files and had interactive graphical output and a word processor, thus making it effectively a report generator. Unlike 1-2-3, Symphony was not a great commercial success.
This article is provided by FOLDOC - Free Online Dictionary of Computing (


(1) See SymphonyOS and Lotus Symphony.

(2) One of the first integrated software packages for the PC running under the DOS operating system. Developed by Lotus, it included word processing, database, spreadsheet, business graphics, communications and a macro language. It was similar in purpose to the Lotus Symphony office suite introduced decades later (see Lotus Symphony).

(3) An earlier wireless LAN family from Proxim, Inc., San Jose, CA ( that transmitted 1.6 Mbps in the unlicensed 2.4 GHz band. Symphony was geared for the home and small office and covered an indoor range up to 150 feet and 10 computers. Symphony supported laptops fitted with Proxim's RangeLAN2 cards, but did not support roaming. See RangeLAN and wireless LAN.
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