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Nineteenth-Century Symphony. Dan Grimley Lecture 1. Antiphonies: Schubert, Berlioz. Studying the Nineteenth-Century Symphony: Some historical/analytical problems Genre Tradition Inheritance Form Expression/Affekt Sources Reception.

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nineteenth century symphony

Nineteenth-Century Symphony

Dan Grimley

lecture 1 antiphonies schubert berlioz
Lecture 1. Antiphonies: Schubert, Berlioz

Studying the Nineteenth-Century Symphony: Some historical/analytical problems

  • Genre
  • Tradition
  • Inheritance
  • Form
  • Expression/Affekt
  • Sources
  • Reception
james hepokoski beethoven reception the symphonic tradition
James Hepokoski, ‘Beethoven Reception: the symphonic tradition’
  • Symphonic practice in later nineteenth-century Europe was no unitary activity that we should collapse into a crisp, linear narrative. The reality was messier. (p.424)
  • Tradition understood as [response to] common set of problems rather than ‘mythical consistency’ of practice (p. 425)
carl dahlhaus the symphony after beethoven
Carl Dahlhaus: ‘The Symphony after Beethoven’
  • To speak of the nineteenth-century symphony as the symphony after Beethoven is not to refer to a chronological truism but to point out a problem for the historian, a problem arising from the fact that later examples of the genre relate directly and immediately to models left by Beethoven, with intermediate stages playing only a minor role. (p. 152)
  • 2 challenges of the Eroica:

1. teleology [goal direction] and thematic manipulation

2. monumentality and seriousness

a b marx and the symphony
A . B. Marx and the Symphony
  • Die Lehre von der musikalischen Komposition (1838)
  • ‘A few words about concert life, especially in big cities’ [Berliner allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, 1825]
    • Symphony exclusive property [‘Eigenthum’] of the Germans
    • Symphonies should be performed several times in the same season
    • Symphonic music should be properly rehearsed
    • Symphonies should be played complete, not as individual movements
  • Whoever really wants to hear a Beethoven symphony in our area knows that he must receive a spiritual baptism of fire to his head and banish thoughts of amusement and sensual pleasure. Therefore, Beethoven’s listeners will not lack the concentration needed for the entering into the spirit that lives in artworks. [BamZ, 1826]
schubert an unfinished symphony
Schubert: an ‘Unfinished’ Symphony?
  • ms dated Vienna 30 October 1822
  • contains first 9 bars of scherzo. Surviving short score sketch includes part of first movement, Andante complete, 112 bars of scherzo plus 16 bb.of trio.
  • FS to Leopold Kupelwieser, 31 March 1824: ‘I wrote two Quartets and an Octet, and I want to write another quartet, in fact I intend to pave my way towards grand symphony in that manner.’
  • Awarded membership of Styrian Music Society, Graz, September 1823. Promised to send score of ‘new symphony’; sent ms of ‘Unfinished’ to Anselm Hüttenbrenner, by August 1824.
  • No public acknowledgement of ownership until August 1863.
  • First public performance December 1865, GesellschaftderMusikfreunde, Vienna. Published as ‘unfinished’, 1867.
an unfinished symphony
An ‘unfinished’ symphony?
  • Maynard Solomon, Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony’
    • [p. 112] It is conceivable that in the course of its working out the Symphony took an unexpected structural and rhetorical turn that made a continuation unnecessary, even impossible.

[Cf. Beethoven precedent in piano sonatas op. 54, 90, 111.]

    • An ‘unfinished’ Symphony opens up the connections between Schubert and that aspect of the Romantic aesthetic that valorises ruins, fragments, longing, sudden death, and every other idea of incompletion; it is emblematic of an inability to achieve conventional patterns of archetypal transcendence—those bearing on homecoming, triumph, closure, happy ending. (p. 129)
first movement allegro moderato
First movement: Allegro moderato

Bars Formal Section Key Texture/Affekt


1-38 Intro+P-Space bminor: closed Lied texture

39-41 TR i-V/G horn calls

42-104 S-Space (EEC) G major! Ländler

104-110 CODA


111-217 (P material) E minor ‘Wild ride’, bb. 184-212

REPRISE (n.b. introduction omitted!)

218-252 P-Space bminor—V/b (open) Lied texture

252-255 TR V—V/D horn calls

256-322 S-Space (ESC) D—b!Ländler

328-360 CODA bminor Introduction returns

berlioz symphonie fantastique
Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique
  • Beethoven symphonies played as complete cycle, Société des Concerts du Conservatoire, 1828.
  • D. Kern Holoman:

Berlioz was less concerned with purity of the symphonic genre as he inherited it than with the symphony as a forum for experiment and progress towards his own ideals as a composer of dramatic music [p. 108]

  • Symphony inspired by meeting with Harriet Smithson, productions of Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet, 1827
  • Decided to compose ‘a descriptive symphony based on Faust’ (1829): became ‘An Episode in the Life of an Artist’ (1830)
  • Idée fixe: theme taken from Prix de Rome cantata Herminie(1828)
symphonie fantastique innovations
Symphonie Fantastique: Innovations
  • Programme: ‘Episodes in the Life of an Artist’
  • Literary/musical allusions [Byron/Beethoven]
  • 5-movement plan

1. Rêveries. Passions (key: C)

2. Un bal (A)

3. Scène aux champs (F)

4. Marche au supplice (g)

5. Songed’unenuit du Sabbat (C)

  • Orchestration
    • Extended woodwind (piccolo, coranglais, E-flat clarinet, 4 bassoons)
    • Extended brass (valve trumpets, trombones, 2 tubas)
    • Percussion (2 sets of timpani)
    • 2 harps
third movement sc ne aux champs adagio
Third movement: Scène aux champs (adagio)
  • 1845 programme :

Finding himself one evening in the country, [the artist] hears in the distance two shepherds piping a ranz des vaches in dialogue. This pastoral duet, the quiet rustling of the trees gently brushed by the wind, the hopes he has recently found some reason to entertain—all concur in affording his heart an unaccustomed calm, and in giving a more cheerful colour to his ideas. He reflects upon his isolation; he hopes that his loneliness will soon be over.—But what if she were deceiving him!—This mingling of hope and fear, these ideas of happiness disturbed by black presentiments, form the subject of the Adagio. At the end one of the shepherds again takes up the ranz des vaches; the other no longer replies.–Distant sound of thunder—loneliness–silence.

schubert berlioz conclusions
Schubert—Berlioz: Conclusions
  • Beethoven: point of emulation/resistance
  • Symphony as site of melancholic contemplation
  • Expansion of expressive range/musical space
  • Formal innovation
  • Programme/narrative
  • Textural effects
  • Idea of ‘unfinished’: open musical work