#ClassicsaDay #SymYesNo Week 4

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).

09/20/21 Franz Joseph Haydn – Symphony No. 60 “Il Distratto”

The father of the symphony recycled his incidental music from a play for Symphony No. 60. The work has six movements, corresponding to the overture, four entr’actes, and a finale. Functionally, is this a symphony, or an orchestral suite?

 Poll results: Yes 50%, No 50%


09/21/21 Richard Strauss – An Alpine Symphony

Richard Strauss originally began the work as a traditional four-movement symphony, “The Alps.” He eventually recycled parts of the unfinished work into the Alpine Symphony. It has 22 parts, played as one continuous movement. Strauss titled it “symphony,” but is it really a tone poem?

Poll results: Yes 66.7% No 33.3%


09/22/21 Richard Strauss – Symphonia Domestica

Strauss always intended this as a tone poem. But it is a large, four-movement work with “Symphonia” in the title. So is it just a tone poem, or a programmatic symphony?

Poll results: Yes 100% No  0%



09/23/21 Bela Bartok – Concerto for Orchestra

Bartok titled this work a concerto, as each section is treated in a virtuosic fashion. But traditionally “concerto” means a single instrumentalist is featured (or two in a double concerto). So is this really a symphony with some really hard parts for everyone?

Poll results: Yes 50% No  50%


09/24/21 Alexander Scriabin: The Poem of Ecstasy

Scriabin sometimes called this his fourth symphony. But the work parallels a 300-line poem Scriabin wrote to go with it. And he wrote a shorter set of program notes for subsequent performances. So is it only a tone poem, or legitimately a symphony?

 Poll results: Yes 66.7% No  33.3%

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