#ClassicsaDay #SymYesNo Week 3

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).

09/13/21 Vincent Persichetti – Symphony for Band

Persichetti’s Sixth Symphony was composed for a wind ensemble. Traditionally, strings form the core of a symphony. Does their absence make this work any less “symphonic?”

Poll results: Yes 0%  No 100%


09/14/21 Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – Manfred Symphony

It’s his only programmatic symphony. And it’s the only one Tchaikovsky didn’t assign a number to. Why not? Did even he think this was more of a tone poem than a symphony?

Poll results:  Yes 85.7%  No 14.3%


09/15/21 Leos Janacek – Sinfonietta

Merriam-Webster defines “sinfonietta” as “a symphony of less than the standard length or for fewer instruments” So what do we make of this work that’s a standard length and uses more instruments than a standard orchestra?

Poll results: Yes 50% No 50%


09/16/21 Gustav Mahler – Das Lied von der Erde

The story goes that Mahler avoided titling this a symphony, as it would have invoked the “curse of the ninth.” So instead, the title suggests an orchestral song cycle with “symphony” in the subtitle. But did he fool anyone?

Poll results: Yes 66.7% No 33.3%


09/17/21 Maurice Ravel – Daphnis et Chloé

Ravel called this ballet score a choreographic symphony. But then he also made two orchestral suites from it, as one does with ballet music. So is the original really a symphony, or a series of ballet numbers?

Poll results: Yes 0% No 100%

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