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A symphony is an extended musical composition found in Western Classical music. They are almost always scored for an orchestra between 30 and 100 musicians, consisting of a string, brass, woodwind, and percussion section. However, many symphonies also have vocal parts, such as Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

The Italian style of the symphony is often used as an overture and entr’acte in opera houses, became a standard three-movement form:

  1. Fast movement
  2. Slow movement
  3. Fast movement

The fully developed four-movement symphony that followed emerged in the late 18th century:

  1. Sonata allegro form
  2. Slow movement
  3. Minuet or scherzo with trio
  4. Rondo or sonata at allegro


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On the next page, take a look at the beginning of the third movement of Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 101 in D Major. Notice how it says "Menuetto" (minuet) at the top. This indicates that the form is typical of a symphony’s third movement.


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