Symphonic Poem Music Recordings

A symphonic poem, or tone poem, is a single movement piece written for large orchestral forces, conceived to evoke the contents of a non musical source (for example a painting, or a text). The genre reconciles drama and music without actually employing sung or spoken text. Symphonic poems come from the perceived stagnation of the traditional symphony form: after the immense success of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, many composers turned to shorter forms, like the concert overture. This allowed them to continue compose in a symphonic language while still avoiding to be perceived as 'under the shadow' of Beethoven's work. The genre also lent itself to extra-musical narration. Franz Liszt took this a step further and came up with a new form that allowed him to write pieces as complex as a Symphony's first movement, yet displaying a stronger structural cohesion and reflecting an extra musical program. He made use of the cyclic writing and thematic development methods, found in some of Beethoven's work. This form was quickly adopted by composer, and remained popular until the 20th century, when the rejection of Romantic ideals caused a steep decline in its popularity.

Title Composer Instrument Period Ratings
Danse macabre, Op. 40 Camille Saint-Saëns Orchestra Late 19th century
Don Juan, Op. 20 Richard Strauss Orchestra Romantic
Finale from Mazeppa, S. 100 Franz Liszt Orchestra Romantic
Finlandia, Op. 26 Jean Sibelius Orchestra Early 20th Century
Hamlet, S. 104 Franz Liszt Orchestra Romantic
In the Steppes of Central Asia Alexander Borodin Orchestra Late 19th century
Ma Vlast - Vltava (The Moldau) Bedřich Smetana Orchestra Romantic
Night on Bald Mountain Modest Mussorgsky Orchestra Romantic
Nights in the Gardens of Spain Manuel de Falla Orchestra Early 20th Century
Orpheus, S. 98 Franz Liszt Orchestra Romantic
Siegfried Idyll, WWV 103 Richard Wagner Orchestra Romantic
The Sorcerer's Apprentice Paul Dukas Orchestra Late 19th century
The Wild Dove, Op. 110 Antonín Dvořák Orchestra Late 19th century