Alan Chapman has a lot to say about music, but can he say it in 60 seconds? That’s the Chapman Challenge. We ask a question and Alan has a minute to answer it.
Today’s question comes from Stephen Willson who asks: Is there some underlying relationship among the movements in a symphony?
At the very least there are harmonic relationships among the movements of a symphony. We expect the first and last movements to be in the same key. As for the inner movements, there are various options, including whether they’re in major or minor keys. And these choices are part of a composer’s overall design of a symphony.
There are often melodic aspects that contribute to the cohesiveness of a symphony. A prominent theme may appear in more than one movement, often with some sort of modification. Or they may be smaller scale musical ideas that are shared by multiple movements and those ideas may be melodic or rhythmic.
For example, in the third movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, there’s a reference to the famous rhythm of the first movement.
And in the midst of the fourth and final movement, an unexpected echo of the third movement.