Listening to WGUC each day, you may notice the ample amount of symphonies played. You may also notice the extensive variety among the various symphonies, many differing from one another based on the time period during which they were composed. This month, let’s explore the history of the symphony, mapping out a timeline that will show just how the symphony developed throughout history.
The symphony is a large orchestral work that developed in the mid-eighteenth century. Divided into a specified number of movements, we will soon see that the standard number of movements changed over time. The early symphony was thought to have its roots in the Italian opera overture (known as sinfonia), which typically used a three-movement format:
Movement 1: Fast tempo
Movement 2: Slow tempo
Movement 3: Fast tempo
The symphony also was thought to resemble a classical sonata, only written for an entire orchestra rather than a solo instrument with possible accompaniment.
Looking at a musical score, I find that often it’s easy to mistake a string quartet for an early classical symphony. Why? Most early symphonies were scored for four-part strings, just like a string quartet. It wasn’t until a bit later that various wind instruments began to enter the orchestral scene.
Join me next time as I explore one of the earliest symphonic composers, Giovanni Battista Sammartini.