What is a classical symphony?

Symphony is one of the most sophisticated forms of instrumental music, created in the late Baroque era and continued until today. But what is the symphony music definition?


Classical symphony definition is an extended musical composition in western music, mostly composed in three to six parts or movements for the orchestra. A classic symphony piece has four movements, though from the Romantic era till now there have been many variations to this form and all the composers did not use the four-movement standard.


The intro or prologue of an Opera in the Baroque era was named Sinfonia in Italian. This intro was usually a three-part instrumental piece of music. By the growing popularity of instrumental music, composers started to create Concertos.


Concerto is a three-movement piece in which a solo instrument or a combination of three to four instruments, play the music along with an orchestra. In one of the forms of Concerto, which is named Concerto Ripieno, the whole orchestra plays together.


This type of concerto later changed its form to a four-movement piece, and also changed its name to the previous Sinfonia, and thus the Classical Symphony was created.


Symphony means playing along or playing together.


Joseph Haydn is known as the father of Symphony. Though he did not invent the form, he reached the highest quality in the symphony. With 104 symphonies in total, he still holds the record of most symphonies written by one individual.


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Leopold Mozart was a great symphonist in his time and he raised a prodigy that we know by the name of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart today. Wolfgang’s 41 symphonies are amongst the most important pieces in the symphonic repertoire.


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It was not until Ludwig Van Beethoven that classical symphony saw a vast change in its being. With Beethoven, the symphony was no more a four-part piece of music composed to entertain the audience. It became the best tool for self-expression by the composer. Composers after Beethoven don’t create symphonies just to write nice melodies, Symphony has the same value for a composer as a Novel has for a writer.


The greatest and most influential composers of symphony are:


  • Ludwig Van Beethoven

  • Joseph Hydn

  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

  • Gustav Mahler

  • Johannes Brahms

  • Hector Berlioz

  • Anton Bruckner

  • Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky

  • Dimitri Shostakovich


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After Beethoven’s symphony no. 3, not only the form of a symphony, but also the whole music has changed. Symphonies are among the most important pieces written by composers, due to their usage of the whole orchestra, they make all the harmonic and timber varieties possible for composers.


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