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Symphonic poem

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Symphonic poem

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A symphonic poem or tone poem is a piece of orchestral music, in one movement, in which some extra-musical programme provides a narrative or illustrative element. This programme could come from a poem, a novel, a painting or some other source. Music based on extra-musical sources is often known as program music, while music which has no other associations is known as absolute music. A series of tone poems may be combined in a suite, in the romantic rather than the baroque sense: "The Swan of Tuonela" (1895) is a tone poem from Sibelius' Lemminkäinen Suite.

Franz Liszt largely invented the symphonic poem, in a series of single-movement orchestral works composed in the 1840s and 1850s. The immediate predecessors of the Lisztian tone poem were concert overtures, theatrical, colorful and evocative orchestral movements that were created for performance independent of any opera or theater-piece: for example, Felix Mendelssohn's Fingal's Cave or Hector Berlioz's Roman Carnival Overture. An early such independent overture is Carl Maria von Weber's Der Beherrscher der Geister ("The Ruler of the Spirits", 1811), a highly atmospheric overture without an opera. These concert pieces in turn sprung from the overtures by Ludwig van Beethoven such as those for Egmont, Coriolanus, and the Leonore No. 3, which in their musical content anticipates the story of the stage work which they introduce (plays in the case of Egmont and Coriolanus, the opera Fidelio in the case of Leonore). Even earlier orchestral mood pieces are exemplified by the 'storm' set-pieces that were an established genre that went back to the summer storm in Antonio Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, and some moody entr'actes between scenes of Baroque French operas.

Other composers who took up the symphonic poem:

Sergei Rachmaninoff - The Isle of the Dead
Camille Saint-Saëns - Danse macabre
Claude Debussy - Prélude ŕ l'aprčs-midi d'un faune
Jean Sibelius - Finlandia
Bedrich Smetana - Má Vlast
Dvorák - The Golden Spinning Wheel and The Wood Dove, among others
Modest Mussorgsky - Night on Bald Mountain
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov - Sadko
Pyotr Tchaikovsky - Fatum, Romeo and Juliet (labeled "fantasy-overture")
César Franck - Le Chasseur Maudit ("The Accursed Huntsman")
Alexander Borodin - In the Steppes of Central Asia
Paul Dukas - L'apprenti-sorcier ("The Sorcerer's Apprentice")
Sergei Taneyev - Oresteia (labeled "overture", but really a symphonic poem based on themes from his opera of the same name)
Ottorino Respighi - the trilogy of Roman symphonic poems (The Pines of Rome, The Fountains of Rome, and Roman Festivals)
George Gershwin An American in Paris,
Geirr Tveitt Nykken
Arnold Bax Tintagel, and The Garden of Fand.
Nigel Keay - Ritual Dance of the Unappeasable Shadow.
Nick Peros - Northern Lights

From the above one can understand that the freedom of the genre of the symphonic poem allows other appellations, such as "musical picture," "overture," "fantasy," etc.

Richard Strauss (who preferred the term "tone poem" to "symphonic poem") was one of the most prolific late Romantic composers in the genre, with his works including Don Juan, Till Eulenspiegel, Also sprach Zarathustra, Don Quichote, and Ein Heldenleben. Strauss subtitled Don Quichote 'Introduction, Theme with Variations, and Finale' and 'Fantastic Variations for Large Orchestra on a Theme of Knightly Character.' The work could as easily be called a rhapsody as a tone poem.

William Lloyd Webber, the father of theatrical composer/impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber, composed a symphonic poem Aurora, which has experienced a resurgence in popularity in recent years. However, some of this interest can be attributed to his association with the popularity of his son's works.

There are also a number of one-movement works not written for orchestra, but for some chamber ensemble or solo instrument, based on some extra-musical source. Because of their non-orchestral nature, these are not considered to be "symphonic poems", although in all aspects other than instrumentation, they resemble one. One of the best known such pieces is Arnold Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht ("Transfigured Night"), based on a poem, originally written for string sextet (though later arranged for a larger ensemble).

See also


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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.


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