#ClassicsaDay #SymYesNo Week 2

For the month of September, the Classics a Day team chose a controversial theme. There is a small subset of symphonic works within the classical repertoire that appear misnamed. Most composers choose their titles carefully. But when the title runs counter to expectations, disagreements arise.

What does the title “symphony” mean? Can a composition be a symphony in everything but name? Or could a work titled “symphony” be a different type of composition in disguise?

For this month’s challenge, I included a poll with each post to let the readers decide. Here are the posts — and the poll results — for the first week of #ClassicsaDay #SymYesNo (Symphony? Yes/No).

09/07/21 Benjamin Britten – Cello Symphony

Britten named it “symphony” to reflect the equal roles of soloist and orchestra. But the definition of a concerto is soloist(s)+orchestra. And it has cadenzas. So is this really a symphony, or a concerto?

Poll results: Yes 50% No 50%


09/08/21 Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov – Antar

Rimsky-Korsakov originally titled and published this as his Symphony No. 2. But then he renamed it a symphonic suite, a programmatic work telling the story of Antar. But what is this four-movement work really?

 Poll results: Yes 50% No 50%


09/09/21 Ernest Bloch – Symphony for Trombone and Orchestra

Bloch didn’t label this 17-minute work a concerto. He felt that the soloist and the orchestra shared equal roles. And yet it’s often played in recital (with piano reduction). In this setting, the trombone is the soloist, and the piano the supporting instrument. So is this really a symphony or a concerto?

Poll results: Yes 50% No 50%


09/10/21 Roy Harris – Symphony for Voices on Poems of Walt Whitman

Harris was an innovative composer of symphonies. This work is for a capella choir. Can it be a symphony without instruments (specifically strings)? Or is it really an expansive song cycle?

 Poll results: Yes 50% No 50%

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