Click here to load reader

Symphonic poem - · PDF file · 2011-10-03Symphonic poem 1 Symphonic poem A ... While many symphonic poems may compare in size and scale to symphonic movements ... Liszt took Beethoven's

  • View

  • Download

Embed Size (px)

Text of Symphonic poem - · PDF file · 2011-10-03Symphonic poem 1 Symphonic poem A ......

  • Symphonic poem 1

    Symphonic poemA symphonic poem or tone poem is a piece of orchestral music in a single continuous section (a movement) inwhich the content of a poem, a story or novel, a painting, a landscape or another (non-musical) source is illustratedor evoked. The term was first applied by Hungarian composer Franz Liszt to his 13 works in this vein. In its aestheticobjectives, the symphonic poem is in some ways related to opera; whilst it does not use a sung text, it seeks, likeopera, a union of music and drama.[1] [2]

    While many symphonic poems may compare in size and scale to symphonic movements (or even reach the length ofan entire symphony), they are unlike traditional classical symphonic movements, in that their music is intended toinspire listeners to imagine or consider scenes, images, specific ideas or moods, and not to focus on followingtraditional patterns of musical form (e.g. sonata form). This intention to inspire listeners was a direct consequence ofRomanticism which encouraged literary, pictorial and dramatic associations in music. Musical works which attemptto inspire listeners in this way are often referred to as program music, while music which has no such associationsmay be called absolute music.Some piano and chamber works, such as Arnold Schoenberg's string sextet Verklrte Nacht, have similarities withsymphonic poems in their overall intent and effect. However, the term symphonic poem is generally accepted torefer to orchestral works. A symphonic poem may stand on its own, or it can be part of a series combined into asymphonic suite . For example, The Swan of Tuonela (1895) is a tone poem from Jean Sibelius's LemminkinenSuite. A symphonic poem can also be part of a cycle of interrelated works, such as Vltava (The Moldau) as part ofthe six-work cycle M vlast by Bedich Smetana. Also, while the terms "symphonic poem" and "tone poem" haveoften been used interchangeably, some composers such as Richard Strauss and Jean Sibelius have preferred the latterterm for pieces which were less symphonic in design and in which there is no special emphasis on thematic or tonalcontrast.[3]

    According to Macdonald, the symphonic poem met three 19th century aesthetic goals: it related music to outsidesources; it often combined or compressed multiple movements into a single principal section; and it elevatedinstrumental program music to an aesthetic level which could be regarded as equivalent to, or higher than opera.[2]

    The symphonic poem remained popular from the 1840s until the 1920s, when the genre suffered a severe decline inpopularity.

    BackgroundIn the second quarter of the 19th century, the future of the symphonic genre came into doubt. While many composerscontinued to write symphonies during the 1820s and 30s, "there was a growing sense that these works wereaesthetically far inferior to Beethoven's.... The real question was not so much whether symphonies could still bewritten, but whether the genre could continue to flourish and grow".[4] Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann andNiels Gade achieved successes with their symphonies, putting at least a temporary stop to the debate as to whetherthe genre was dead.[4] Nevertheless, composers increasingly turned to the "more compact form" of the concertoverture "as a vehicle within which to blend musical, narrative and pictoral ideas"; examples included Mendelssohn'sovertures A Midsummer Night's Dream (1826) and The Hebrides (1830).[4]

    Between 1845 and 1847, Franco-Belgian composer Csar Franck wrote an orchestral piece based on Victor Hugo'spoem Ce qu'on entend sur le montagne. The work exhibits characteristics of a symphonic poem, and somemusicologists, such as Norman Demuth and Julien Tiersot, consider it the first of its genre, preceding Liszt'scompositions.[5] [6] However, Franck did not publish or perform his piece; neither did he set about defining thegenre. Liszt's determination to explore and promote the symphonic poem gained him recognition as the genre'sinventor.[7]

  • Symphonic poem 2


    Franz Liszt in 1858

    The Hungarian composer Franz Liszt desired to expand single-movement worksbeyond the concert overture form.[8] The music of overtures is to inspire listenersto imagine scenes, images, or moods; Liszt intended to combine thoseprogrammatic qualities with a scale and musical complexity normally reservedfor the opening movement of classical symphonies.[3] The opening movement,with its interplay of contrasting themes under sonata form, was normallyconsidered the most important part of the symphony.[9] To achieve hisobjectives, Liszt needed a more flexible method of developing musical themesthan sonata form would allow, but one that would preserve the overall unity of amusical composition.[10] [11]

    Liszt found his method through two compositional practices, which he used inhis symphonic poems. The first practice was cyclic form, a procedure establishedby Beethoven in which certain movements are not only linked but actually reflectone another's content.[12] Liszt took Beethoven's practice one step further,

    combining separate movements into a single-movement cyclic structure.[12] [13] Many of Liszt's mature works followthis pattern, of which Les Prludes is one of the best-known examples.[13] The second practice was thematictransformation, a type of variation in which one theme is changed, not into a related or subsidiary theme but intosomething new, separate and independent.[13] As musicologist Hugh Macdonald wrote of Liszt's works in this genre,the intent was "to display the traditional logic of symphonic thought;"[8] that is, to display a comparable complexityin the interplay of musical themes and tonal 'landscape' to those of the Romantic symphony.

    Thematic transformation, like cyclic form, was nothing new in itself. It had been previously used by Mozart andHaydn.[14] In the final movement of his Ninth Symphony, Beethoven had transformed the theme of the "Ode to Joy"into a Turkish march.[15] Weber and Berlioz had also transformed themes, and Schubert used thematictransformation to bind together the movements of his Wanderer Fantasy, a work that had a tremendous influence onLiszt.[15] [16] However, Liszt perfected the creation of significantly longer formal structures solely through thematictransformation, not only in the symphonic poems but in others works such as his Second Piano Concerto[15] [15] andhis Piano Sonata in B minor.[11] In fact, when a work had to be shortened, Liszt tended to cut sections ofconventional musical development and preserve sections of thematic transformation.[17]

    While Liszt had been inspired to some extent by the ideas of Richard Wagner in unifying ideas of drama and musicvia the symphonic poem,[18] Wagner gave Liszt's concept only lukewarm support in his 1857 essay On theSymphonic Poems of Franz Liszt, and was later to break entirely with Liszt's Weimar circle over their aestheticideals.

    Czech composersComposers who developed the symphonic poem after Liszt were mainly Bohemian, Russian, and French; the Bohemians and Russians showed the potential of the form as a vehicle for the nationalist ideas fomenting in their respective countries at this time.[8] Bedich Smetana visited Liszt in Weimar in the summer of 1857, where he heard the first performances of the Faust Symphony and the symphonic poem Die Ideale.[19] Influenced by Liszt's efforts, Smetana began a series of symphonic works based on literary subjectsRichard III (1857-8), Wallenstein's Camp (1858-9) and Hakon Jarl (186061). A piano work dating from the same period, Macbeth a arodjnice (Macbeth and the Witches, 1859), is similar in scope but bolder in style.[8] Musicologist John Clapham writes that Smetana planned these works as "a compact series of episodes" drawn from their literary sources "and approached them

Search related