Symphonic poem

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A symphonic poem or tone poem is a piece of music for orchestra, usually in one movement, that utilizes some sort of extra musical program or narrative or illustrative element. The program can be based off of almost anything; a poem, a story or novel, or simply an idea. Hungarian composer Franz Liszt is often credited as the inventor of this form with his 13 one-movement orchestral pieces that had extra-musical programs that largely dealt with mythology, Romantic literature, recent history or fantasy.

A symphonic poem may stand on its own, like a concert overture, or as a movement of a suite.

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Notable symphonic poems

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Romantic era

  • Alexander Borodin
- In the Steppes of Central Asia
  • Paul Dukas
- L'apprenti-sorcier ("The Sorcerer's Apprentice")
  • Franz Liszt
- Les Preludes
  • Modest Mussorgsky
- Night on Bald Mountain
  • Camille Saint-Saëns
- Danse Macabre

Impressionist era

  • Claude Debussy
- Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune
- La Mer (an orchestral suite made up of three vaguely titled tone poems)
  • Maurice Ravel
- La Valse

20th century

  • Frederick Delius
- On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring
  • George Gershwin
- An American in Paris
  • Arthur Honneger
- Pacific 231
  • Sergei Rachmaninoff
- Isle of the Dead
  • Jean Sibelius
- Lemminkäinen Suite (Four Legends from the Kalevala), Op. 22 (1893)
  • Richard Strauss
- Don Juan
- Don Quixote
- Also sprach Zarathustra

Musical Forms
Polyphonic forms CanonCanzonaInventionFugueOrganumRicercarRoundSinfornia
Sectional forms Strophic formChain formBinary formTernary formRondo formArch formRitornello form
Cyclical forms BalletConcertoMassOratorioOperaRequiemSonataSong cycleSuiteSymphony
composed forms
BagatelleFantasiaEtudeImpromptuPreludeRhapsodySymphonic poem
Dance forms AllemandeBalladBoleroContradanceEstampieJigPolkaWaltz

French: CouranteGigueMinuetSarabande

Italian: BarcarolleSaltarelloTarantella

Polish: MazurkaPolonaise