Discuss the Development of the Symphony from 1700 to 1824

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The antecedent years of the Classical Symphony moulded and defined the typical outline and structure that became established by the early 18th Century. By the 1720s in particular, the framework comprised of a dramatic, fast movement followed by a second slow, lyrical movement and ended with a fast dance-like third movement. It is known, between the years of 1720-1820, 16,558 symphonies had been written. By the beginning of the 19th Century, the symphony had generally maintained the same principle movements, although gained a fourth movement or finale as it is more aptly named. An introduction or a possible fifth movement may also have been added, such as Beethoven’s 6th Symphony. But how did it succumb to this? There are of course, many contributing factors towards the development of this particularly prominent and historical genre. But in order to discover how the symphony has developed as a whole, the internal cogs that turn this device must first of all be recognised. Throughout the 18th Century, the term known today as ‘symphony’ was then known as ‘sonata’, ‘sinfonia’ or what would also be named, an ‘overture’. This would usually feature three contrasting sections. It may be an instrumental ensemble providing an introduction to an Opera or it could also be used as an orchestral interlude, like that evident in the Pastoral Symphony from Handel’s Messiah. Although, the requirements when composing sinfonia were not particularly strict, there was no precise form and certainly no absolute. ‘Sinfonia’ would also quite commonly be used as a device to cover the noise when scenery is being changed within an opera. Despite there being no definite form beforehand, the early 1700s had still produced certain guidelines associated with the structure. It would seem that what had become constant or typical had become the established form or structure. This had practically became set in stone within the Italian overture - the most popular in the early 18th century - as a fast first movement, a slow second movement, followed by a fast, dance-like third movement. This would be orchestrated using strings, oboes and horns, with a continuo played by bassoon or most commonly, harpsichord. The key of D would commonly be utilised due to its open string timbre but most importantly due to the making of the instrument. It should be taken into consideration that the technical instrumental innovation of the 18th Century had not fully developed. For example, valves were not invented until the early 19th Century; therefore there were extensive limitations to the potential of tonality. This was an especially concerning issue within ensemble performance and keyboard music; proving highly problematic. At this time, it would be highly impractical and very rarely seen for a key to go beyond four sharps or three flats. Although this problematic lack of innovation is not solely connected to the symphony, it is still directly vital in understanding how the symphony develops, after all, tonality and instrumentation play the most basic yet significant part within the genre. A preeminent composer of this period would be Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725). In 1700, Davidis pugna et Victoria would be performed for the first time at the Crocifisso, an oratory in Rome. This contained only a two-movement sinfonia, which seemingly resembled somewhat aged structure. Later in 1715, Scarlatti’s 12 Sinfonie di concerto grosso generally proved as the perfect reflection of the sinfonia of the time. On the other hand, No.7 in G involves four movements displaying progression and expansion within the symphonic movement of the early 1700s. Also, No.1 in F serves as an early sign of the five-movement operatic sinfonia which would become more common later in the century and early 19th. A structure of Allegro – Adagio – Allegro – Adagio – Allegro is utilised but despite being well written, shows to be rather uninventive in terms of variety. Being only the beginning of the...
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