Welcome to the course! This booklet provides a summary of the course, a list of lecture topics, and some suggestions for reading.
The nineteenth-century symphony is such a familiar part of the Western musical canon that it is easy to overlook how complex and contested the genre became. Indeed, despite its associations of monumentality, grandeur, and musical unity, it was a discourse concerned as much with conflict and (problematically) hybridity as with synthesis and resolution. This course will scrutinise key works from historical and analytical perspectives. Attention will be directed towards issues of narrative (structural as well as historical), representation, and meaning, across a broad range of works, critically engaging with notions of centre and periphery, inheritance, and musical tradition. The symphony emerges as an anxious site of musical-cultural practice, and simultaneously offers a sharp lens for refracting broader issues in nineteenth-century musical history. You are strongly encouraged to listen widely, particularly to explore areas of the repertoire beyond works discussed during the lecture course (for instance, symphonies by composers such as Niels W Gade, Franz Berwald, Louise Farrenc, Johan Svendsen, Camille Saint-Saëns, Elfrida Andrée, and C V Stanford, just to name a few). The course will also consider issues of performance, interpretation, ideology, and musical space. Listening to symphony concerts regularly on Radio 3 (via the I-player) is an excellent way to broaden your knowledge of the repertoire, and there is much material to explore on Naxos.