The Symphonic Poem: A Wrap Up

Well, here we are at the end of another series. Find the whole thing here. This one I feel was more varied, more vibrant than the Russian or German series, because the symphonic/tone poem is less a thing and more an idea. We had everything from Liszt’s very literal, literary interpretations of works like his Les Preludes all the way to more abstract or entirely non-programmatic works like Sibelius’ En Saga or Debussy’s La Mer, suggestive only of an idea, not a story.

While I found Liszt’s (first two) efforts to be a bit lengthy and ‘dry’ along with Strauss’s Aus Italien, who couldn’t love his ever-so-famous Don Juan, one of the most famous of such works in the repertoire? That was for sure a highlight, as were some of the lesser-known gems from Sibelius, and for sure Dvořák’s two contributions, stemming from folk tales full of emotion and imagery. All the way through to more recent works like those from Scriabin, we could see a more personal, abstract agenda coming into play, in an era where the world had gotten used to (or at least more used to) music outside of the typical multi-movement symphonic form, but then back to Respighi and his three works in the Roman Triptych, each in four movements.

In any case, there is tons of variety in this mishmash of pieces, the only real unifying factor being that they’re not actually symphonies (although Strauss’s Aus Italien comes dangerously close, to me).

Now… for a list of honorable mentions. Of course this series was not exhaustive, and if/when we get around to a Part II, some things that should probably be included are

  • The remaining ten symphonic poems from Liszt
  • Three more each from Dvořák and Rachmaninoff
  • A long list from Sibelius
  • Eight more from R. Strauss, including such notables as Till Eulenspiegel, Don Quixote, Ein Heldenleben, and the Alpensinfonie
  • Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune
  • Gershwin! His An American in Paris is actually called Tone Poem!
  • A handful from Karłowicz
  • Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade 
  • Smetana’s Ma Vlast

… and even a few from Tchaikovsky. And more.

But I’m excited to have done the ones we did in this series, incorporating some of the most well-known works as well as some more obscure ones. It takes care of a big handful of works that I’d been meaning to get around to, but… there’s even more to get around to in other circles, and you know what that means!

A new feature on the blog. There are two things coming up this week. Tomorrow, there’s another blog post I’m excited about as a kind of a real honorable mention with this series, and then Friday is the announcement of a new feature on the blog, so stay tuned!


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