A History of the Symphony: The Grand Genre identifies the underlying cultural factors that have shaped the symphony over the past three hundred years, presenting a unified view of the entire history of the genre. The text goes beyond discussions of individual composers and the stylistic evolution of the genre to address what constitutes a symphony within each historical period, describing how such works fit into the lives of composers and audiences of the time, recognizing that they do not exist in a vacuum but rather as the products of numerous external forces spurring their creation.
In three parts, the text proceeds chronologically, drawing connections between musical examples across regions and eras:
- The Classical Symphony
- The Romantic Symphony
- The Symphony in the Modern Era
Within this broad chronology—from the earliest Italian symphonies of the 18th century to the most experimental works of the 20th century—discussion of the development of the genre often breaks down along national lines that outline divergent but parallel paths of stylistic growth. In consideration of what is and is not a symphony, musical developments in other genres are presented as they relate to the symphony, genres such as the serenade, the tone poem, and the concert overture. Suitable for a one-semester course as well as a full-year syllabus, and with illustrative musical examples throughout, A History of the Symphony places composers and works in sociological and musical contexts while confronting the fundamental question: What is a symphony?
Table of Contents
PART I: THE CLASSICAL SYMPHONY / Chapter 1 - Origins of the Genre: From Pergolesi to Early Haydn / Pergolesi and the Italian Sinfonia / Stamitz and the Mannheim School; C.P.E. Bach and the Empfindsam Stil / Early Haydn / Chapter 2 - Maturation of the Genre: Haydn and Mozart / Haydn: From Servant to Entrepreneur / The Genius of Mozart / Chapter 3 - From Classicism to Romanticism / Beethoven and the Destruction of the Classical Style / Schubert and the First Signs of Romanticism / PART II: THE ROMANTIC SYMPHONY / Chapter 4 - The Romantic Generation: Tradition vs. the Avant-garde / Berlioz and the Romantic Revolution / Mendelssohn’s Classical Romanticism / Tradition and Innovation in the Symphonies of Schumann / The Janus Face of Brahms / Liszt and the Symphonic Avant-garde / Chapter 5 - Musical Nationalism: Eastern Europe and Russia / The Politics of Nationalism in the Symphonies of Smetana and Dvořák / The "Mighty Five" and Tchaikovsky / Chapter 6 - The Late Romantic Symphony: Mahler and Strauss / Mahler as "Song-symphonist" / Strauss and the Tome Poem / PART III: THE SYMPHONY IN THE MODERN ERA / Chapter 7 - The Early 20th Century / Debussy and the Transition to the Modern Era / The Unique Path of Sibelius / Chapter 8 - Masters of the 20th Century: From Ives to Shostakovich / Ives as Symphonic Iconoclast / Prokofiev and the Neo-Classical Style / The Changing Symphonic Face of Stravinsky / Hindemith and the Nazis / The Enigma of Shostakovich / Chapter 9 - Contemporary Views of the Symphony / 20th-Century Reinterpretations of the Symphony: Messiaen, Penderecki, and Lutoslawski / Post-modern Symphonies and Gender Issues
Jeffrey Langford is Associate Dean for Doctoral Studies at the Manhattan School of Music in New York, NY.