Author Topic: What is the greatest symphonic poem?  (Read 5880 times)

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Offline relm1

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What is the greatest symphonic poem?
« on: June 26, 2021, 03:28:15 PM »
Not including symphony poems like Liszt's Dante or Faust Symphony, Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique, Sibelius's Kullervo or Strauss's Alpine Symphony where the work is a symphony-poem hybrid, what do you think is the finest example of a tone poem?  I think a great candidate is Cesar Franck's Accursed Hunter.  Duration isn't the point, but rather some of the aforementioned composers are clearly writing programmatic symphonies which aren't tone poems.  By the way, is there a difference between a tone poem and symphonic poem? 

Offline Symphonic Addict

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Re: What is the greatest symphonic poem?
« Reply #1 on: June 26, 2021, 04:51:12 PM »
I'm not sure if my choices are the greatest symphonic poems ever, but I'm very fond of Sibelius's Tapiola and Rachmaninov's The Isle of the Dead. Both works are the epitome of atmosphere, they really describe what they are supposed to express or convey. Another fine example is Strauss's Don Quixote. Its form is cleverly developed and what it is describing is rather clear. Other extraordinary works in the form are Bax's November Woods and Nympholept.
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: What is the greatest symphonic poem?
« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2021, 06:14:11 PM »
Not including symphony poems like Liszt's Dante or Faust Symphony, Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique, Sibelius's Kullervo or Strauss's Alpine Symphony where the work is a symphony-poem hybrid, what do you think is the finest example of a tone poem?  I think a great candidate is Cesar Franck's Accursed Hunter.  Duration isn't the point, but rather some of the aforementioned composers are clearly writing programmatic symphonies which aren't tone poems.  By the way, is there a difference between a tone poem and symphonic poem?

The way I interpret it a tone poem is an orchestral work that is based off a particular narrative and tries to convey this narrative in music. I don’t think I could pick one work to be ‘the greatest tone poem’, but I do think there are several in which come to mind that I think are extraordinary:

Dvořák: The Wild Dove, Op. 110, B. 198
Sibelius: Pohjola’s Daughter, Op. 49
Smetana: Má vlast (I realize I’m cheating here as this is a cycle of six tone poems, but I just had to include it)
Strauss: Don Quixote, Op. 35
Liszt: Mazeppa, S. 100
Rachmaninov: Isle of the Dead, Op. 29
Mussorgsky: Night on Bald Mountain
Lyadov: From the Apocalypse
Rimsky-Korsakov: Sadko, Op. 5
Borodin: In the Steppes of Central Asia
Saint-Saëns: Danse macabre, Op. 40
Tveitt: Nykken, Op. 187
Koechlin: Le Buisson ardent, Opp. 203 & 171
Delius: Two Small Pieces for Orchestra (I. On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring, II. Summer Night on the River)
Suk: A Summer’s Tale, Op. 29
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Offline Jo498

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Re: What is the greatest symphonic poem?
« Reply #3 on: June 27, 2021, 11:56:47 AM »
Not including symphony poems like Liszt's Dante or Faust Symphony, Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique, Sibelius's Kullervo or Strauss's Alpine Symphony where the work is a symphony-poem hybrid, what do you think is the finest example of a tone poem?  I think a great candidate is Cesar Franck's Accursed Hunter.  Duration isn't the point, but rather some of the aforementioned composers are clearly writing programmatic symphonies which aren't tone poems. 
I am not sure where you want to draw the line. I see it only quite clearly for multi-movement works that are even called "symphony". What about La mer?

Restricting to one-movement pieces of moderate length, my favorite is probably "Don Juan" by Strauss, but I am overall not terribly fond of the genre.

Quote
By the way, is there a difference between a tone poem and symphonic poem?
No.
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Offline relm1

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Re: What is the greatest symphonic poem?
« Reply #4 on: June 27, 2021, 03:48:27 PM »
I am not sure where you want to draw the line. I see it only quite clearly for multi-movement works that are even called "symphony". What about La mer?

Restricting to one-movement pieces of moderate length, my favorite is probably "Don Juan" by Strauss, but I am overall not terribly fond of the genre.
No.

Yes, that's a grey area.  I think the basic approach is if the work has a narrative inspiration, it's not a symphony.  So La Mer is a symphony in three movements because it isn't telling a story.  Symphonic poems will tell a story.  So Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique tells a story but is in a multi-movement symphonic form.  I think it falls more into a symphony because the composer says it is.  Sort of like Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony.  These are programmatic symphonies, not symphonic poems. 

Offline Cato

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Re: What is the greatest symphonic poem?
« Reply #5 on: June 27, 2021, 04:58:21 PM »
Assorted candidates in no particular order:

Schoenberg: Pelleas und Melisande

Rachmaninov: The Rock,  Isle of the Dead

Franck: Le Chasseur Maudit

Tchaikovsky: Francesca da Rimini

Liadov: Baba Yaga

Ives: Robert Browning Overture, The Fourth of July

Schumann: Manfred Overture

Beethoven: Coriolanus
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Offline Daverz

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Re: What is the greatest symphonic poem?
« Reply #6 on: June 27, 2021, 06:39:43 PM »
Isle of the Dead came to mind before I saw the replies.  Honest.

A few more that come to mind:

Bax: Tintagel; Garden of Fand
Holst: Beni Mori (that's a 3 movement suite)
Debussy: Jeux
Dukas: Sorcerer's Apprentice
Nielsen:  Helios Overture (does being an overture make it technically out of the running?)
Dvorak: Golden Spinning Wheel


Offline Mirror Image

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Re: What is the greatest symphonic poem?
« Reply #7 on: June 27, 2021, 06:49:53 PM »
Isle of the Dead came to mind before I saw the replies.  Honest.

A few more that come to mind:

Bax: Tintagel; Garden of Fand
Holst: Beni Mori (that's a 3 movement suite)
Debussy: Jeux
Dukas: Sorcerer's Apprentice
Nielsen:  Helios Overture (does being an overture make it technically out of the running?)
Dvorak: Golden Spinning Wheel

Jeux is a ballet. :)
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Offline vandermolen

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Re: What is the greatest symphonic poem?
« Reply #8 on: June 27, 2021, 11:33:59 PM »
Sibelius: Tapiola
Sainton: Nadir/ The Island
Bax: Tintagel/Nympholept/Christmas Eve in the Mountains/November Woods
Novak: In the Tatras/ De Profundis
Alwyn: The Magic Island
Moeran: In the Mountain Country
Mazaev: The Krasnodonians
Lyadov: Babi-Yaga/The Enchanted Lake
Rachmaninov: The Isle of the Dead
Patrick Hadley: Kinder Scout
Dorothy Howell: Lamia
Gershwin: An American in Paris
Miaskovsky: Silence
« Last Edit: June 28, 2021, 09:21:20 AM by vandermolen »
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline Biffo

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Re: What is the greatest symphonic poem?
« Reply #9 on: June 28, 2021, 01:57:44 AM »
Sibelius: Tapiola
Sainton: Nadir/ The Island
Bax: Tintagel/Nympholept/Christmas Eve in the Mountains/November Woods
Novak: In the Tatras/ De Profundis
Alwyn: The Magic Island
Moeran: In the Mountain Country
Mazaev: The Krasnodonians
Lyadov: Babi-Yaga/The Enchanted Lake
Rachmaninov: The Isle of the Dead
Patrick Hadley: Kinder Scout
Dorothy Howell: Lamia
Gershwin: An American in Paris

A thought-provoking selection though only Tapiola and Tintagel would make my (provisional) short-list. I will have to revisit the Moeran, Hadley and Alwyn.

Offline vandermolen

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Re: What is the greatest symphonic poem?
« Reply #10 on: June 28, 2021, 02:24:52 AM »
A thought-provoking selection though only Tapiola and Tintagel would make my (provisional) short-list. I will have to revisit the Moeran, Hadley and Alwyn.
Thanks - I find Mazaev's 'The Krasnodonians' (a tribute to heroic resistance fighters who were massacred in WW2) very moving.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qyjcf7tI_U
« Last Edit: June 28, 2021, 02:26:45 AM by vandermolen »
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline Cato

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Re: What is the greatest symphonic poem?
« Reply #11 on: June 28, 2021, 03:09:04 AM »

Dukas: Sorcerer's Apprentice




I forgot that mighty example of tone-poetry!




Nielsen:  Helios Overture (does being an overture make it technically out of the running?)




I would think not, which is why I included the highly evocative overtures by Schumann (Manfred) and Beethoven (Coriolanus).
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Offline relm1

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Re: What is the greatest symphonic poem?
« Reply #12 on: June 28, 2021, 04:17:34 AM »
Interestingly, no one has mentioned Liszt who practically invented the genre.  You folks find it a bit dry and old fashioned? 

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Re: What is the greatest symphonic poem?
« Reply #13 on: June 28, 2021, 04:55:25 AM »
Interestingly, no one has mentioned Liszt who practically invented the genre.  You folks find it a bit dry and old fashioned?

I mentioned and included Liszt in my own list.
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Offline vandermolen

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Re: What is the greatest symphonic poem?
« Reply #14 on: June 28, 2021, 06:01:39 AM »
Interestingly, no one has mentioned Liszt who practically invented the genre.  You folks find it a bit dry and old fashioned?
I find his music tedious.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: What is the greatest symphonic poem?
« Reply #15 on: June 28, 2021, 06:02:56 AM »
I find his music tedious.

Even Les préludes? :-\
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Offline vandermolen

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Re: What is the greatest symphonic poem?
« Reply #16 on: June 28, 2021, 06:11:29 AM »
Even Les préludes? :-\
Not sure that I know them John, but I had high, unfulfilled, hopes for the 'Dante Symphony'. Sorry to say that (together with Richard Strauss) he is one of my least favourite composers. I consider Chisholm's 'Pictures from Dante' to be a much greater work and truer to the spirit of Dante.
« Last Edit: June 28, 2021, 06:14:41 AM by vandermolen »
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline Biffo

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Re: What is the greatest symphonic poem?
« Reply #17 on: June 28, 2021, 06:54:28 AM »
Even Les préludes? :-\

I have heard them all at least once (several twice or more) and Les preludes is the only one I return to and then rarely. Most of them I find long-winded, repetitive and tedious.

Offline Symphonic Addict

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Re: What is the greatest symphonic poem?
« Reply #18 on: June 28, 2021, 07:32:22 AM »
I do rescue some of Liszt's tone poems. Les préludes, Tasso, Hunnenschlacht and Héroïde funèbre are pretty good.
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Offline LKB

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Re: What is the greatest symphonic poem?
« Reply #19 on: June 28, 2021, 07:47:10 AM »
For me, Sibelius tops the list with En Saga. There aren't a huge number of quality videos which feature the piece, but this one is good:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-iarVX4jZ-g
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