Symphonic Poem

symphonic poem, type of orchestral composition created by Liszt, also called tone poem. Discarding classical principles of form, it begins with a poetic or other literary inspiration. Although it is usually considered program music, no literal following of a program was intended by Liszt. His Tasso (1849) and Hamlet (1876) are compositions of this sort. Although the symphonic poem better expressed the spirit of romanticism than did the symphony, it did not supersede the symphony; many composers, e.g., Tchaikovsky, Saint-Saëns, Sibelius, Franck, and Dvořák, wrote in both forms. In the symphonic poems of Smetana and Sibelius an element of nationalism is added. Influenced by Alexander Ritter's tone poems, Richard Strauss, in, for example, Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche (1895), carried the programmatic possibilities to an extreme of realism, in contrast to the impressionistic tone poems of Debussy, such as Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faune (1894), which are closer to the Lisztian concept.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

FREE! Programme Music in the Last Four Centuries: A Contribution to the History of Musical Expression
Frederick Niecks.
Novello, 1907
FREE! Franz Liszt
James Huneker.
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1911
Selected Letters
Adrian Williams; Adrian Williams; Franz Liszt.
Clarendon Press, 1998
FREE! Music: An Art and a Language
Walter Raymond Spalding.
Arthur P. Schmidt, 1920 (4th edition)
The Music Lover's Handbook
Elie Siegmeister.
William Morrow, 1943
Librarian’s tip: "The Symphonic Poem and the Symphonic Suite" begins on p. 127
Stories of Symphonic Music: A Guide to the Meaning of Important Symphonies, Overtures, and Tone-Poems from Beethoven to Debussy
Lawrence Gilman.
Garden City Publishing, 1937
A Great Russian Tone-Poet, Scriabin
A. Eaglefield Hull.
Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner and Co., Ltd., 1927 (2nd edition)
Romanticism (1830-1890)
Gerald Abraham.
Oxford University Press, 1990
Librarian’s tip: Chap. VII "The Symphonic Poem and Kindred Forms"
Dvořák
Alec Robertson.
J.M. Dent and Sons Ltd., 1947
Listening to Music Creatively
Edwin J. Stringham.
Prentice-Hall, 1946
Librarian’s tip: Chap. XIII "The Symphonic Poem: Tone Painting, Narrative, and Mood"
The Tuning of the Word: The Musico-Literary Poetics of the Symbolist Movement
David Michael Hertz.
Southern Illinois University Press, 1987
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "The Lyric Play And the Tone Poem"
Symphonic Music, Its Evolution since the Renaissance
Homer Ulrich.
Columbia University Press, 1952
Symphonic Masterpieces
Oilin L. Downes.
The Dial Press, 1935
The Symphony: A Listener's Guide
Michael Steinberg.
Oxford University Press, 1998
The Book of Musical Knowledge: The History, Technique, and Appreciation of Music, Together with Lives of the Great Composers, for Music-Lovers, Students and Teachers
Arthur Elson.
Houghton Mifflin, 1927 (Enlarged edition)
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