View Full Version : What's the difference between a Symphony and a Philharmonic Orchestra?

Trailer Park Casanova
01-05-2005, 07:04 PM
Some musician friends and I were guessing that perhaps the Symphony is a full and complete orchestra, and a symphony is smaller,, but damn if we know.

Anyone know?

Trailer Park Casanova
01-05-2005, 07:05 PM
* We guessed that a Philharmonic is smaller.

Exapno Mapcase
01-05-2005, 07:18 PM
In today's practice, there's no real difference.

Back in the day, philharmonic societies got together for the purpose of raising money to support an orchestra. IMO, they're symptomatic of the rise of the upper middle classes taking on functions that once were the province of the nobility. The support of classical music in orchestras and opera companies and smaller groups was a show of their equality: of taste and implicitly of money.

The Belfast Philharmonic Society was founded in September 1874 by the amalgamation of two existing societies - The Classical Harmonists, founded in 1851 and the Belfast Music Society, founded in 1872. Both societies were chaired by the Hon. Edward Ward of Bangor and the formation of the Belfast Philharmonic Society seemed a natural progression, bringing together choir and instrumentalists into one society. An extract from the yearbook of 1874 states and quote; 'Its objects shall be the practice of Choral and Instrumental music and the promotion of a taste therefore by means of such practice and public performance.

Exapno Mapcase
01-05-2005, 07:24 PM
Oh, I should have said that while many philharmonic societies also supported large choirs I don't believe that's necessarily part of the definition. I've heard of societies where just an orchestra was created.

And while they seemed to have originated in Victorian times, new ones have continued being formed well into the 20th century.

01-06-2005, 12:15 AM
Agreed with the others - although 'symphony orchestra' doesn't necessarily postdate 'philharmonic' - after all, the Chicago and Boston Symphonies were both 19th-century creations.

01-06-2005, 02:59 AM
When meeting in gladiatorial combat, the symphony members fight with the sword and shield, while the philharmonic members use the trident and net.

01-06-2005, 10:59 AM
When meeting in gladiatorial combat, the symphony members fight with the sword and shield, while the philharmonic members use the trident and net.

And I suppose that wild stampeding pianos were released into the arena to keep things lively?

01-07-2005, 03:19 AM
And I suppose that wild stampeding pianos were released into the arena to keep things lively?

And angry tubas. Angry, angry tubas.

01-07-2005, 04:41 AM
And angry tubas. Angry, angry tubas.
Easily subdued with the Bar and Bottle ;)

don't ask
01-07-2005, 05:14 AM
Both names refer to the performing body of diverse instruments called an orchestra. So for instance,the New York philharmonic orchestra and the Boston symphony orchestra consist essentially of the same group of instruments.

The histories of the terms are interesting though the word "philharmonic" means "loving things musical" and was used as early as the 16th century in the name of a music academy.
The word "orchestra" was not regularly used to name a large group of instruments until the mid-18th century. Shortly thereafter,as more and more orchestras played the new works of music known as "symphonies," orchestras began to use the word as an adjactive to describe themselves.

"Demystifying The Arts" Wendi C. Thomas

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