Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
Well into the 20th century,
symphonic orchestras continue delighting audiences across the world. In
the U.S, for instance, around 1,500 orchestras exist across the country.
The musical genre, as we have come to understand it today, began in the
middle of the 18th when composers such as Joseph
Haydn composed short orchestral pieces that played as an opening for
operas. Initially, the symphony (which is Greek for "sounding together")
was a piece that came in three movements that lasted only half an hour.
Today (to the lament of some), symphonies may last over 2 hours.
The first orchestras performed in royal palaces
for kings and queens, such as King Louis XIV of France, that sually staffed
a personal composer and dozens of musicians. Early in the history of symphonies,
composers depended on these patrons for their livelihood. Beethoven was
the first major composer to successfully make a career out of composing
music. He worked for no single individual instead beingcommisioned by
different entities to produce works.
Part of the mainstream success of the symphonic
orchestras, and of what we refer to as 'classical' music in general, came
precisely because of the new freedom with which composers were allowed
to work. The other important develoment that further popularized symphonic
orchestras was that public halls, particluarly in Milan, Vienna, and Paris,
began hosting these orchestras. From 1720-1810, 12,000 symphonies were
written for public consumption.
From their inception,, symphonic orchestras gave
the most prominence to the string section of the orchestra. Even today,
the violins and the cellos sit
closest to the conductor. The woodwind insturments such as the flutes
and oboes became a greater part of the orchestra because of their sweet
sounding higher pitch. The brass and percussion sections became part of
symphonic scores that highlighted larger ceremonial occassions.
The form of the movements or parts of the symphonic
score also developed from the standard three or four part movements reminiscent
into potic undertakings that musically narrated such stories as Shakespeare's
'Midsummer Night's Dream' (Mendelssohn) or Nietzche's 'Zarathustra' (Richard
Strauss), or evoked a particular mood, such as Debussy's La Mer which
depicted the sea.
Though many of the great composers have long passed
away, their music and their inspiration lives on in both those that still
appreciate their creations and those living composers who have dedicated
their lives to music.