What is the Difference Between Symphony and Philharmonic: Explained

If you’re a fan of classical music, you’ve probably heard of a symphony orchestra or a philharmonic orchestra. But what exactly is the difference between the two? Many people assume that they’re interchangeable, but there are actually some key distinctions that set them apart.

Firstly, let’s take a closer look at what a symphony orchestra is. This type of musical group is made up of a range of instruments, including strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion. They typically perform a repertoire of pieces known as symphonies, which are compositionally complex and often have multiple movements. Symphonies can vary in length, but they’re usually longer than other types of classical pieces.

On the other hand, the term ‘philharmonic’ refers to a broader range of musical groups. A philharmonic orchestra can be made up of any assortment of instruments and can perform a range of styles of music, such as symphonies, concertos, operas, and more. This means that while a symphony orchestra is always a type of philharmonic orchestra, not all philharmonic orchestras are symphony orchestras. So there you have it – the main difference between symphony and philharmonic orchestras lies in their repertoire and the types of music they perform.

Definition of Symphony and Philharmonic

When it comes to classical music, two terms often mentioned are “symphony” and “philharmonic.” Though they may seem interchangeable, these terms have distinct meanings.

  • A symphony is a musical composition typically written for a full orchestra, consisting of multiple movements. The term “symphony” can also refer to the orchestra that performs the composition.
  • A philharmonic is an orchestra that performs classical music. The term “philharmonic” can also refer to a society or organization that sponsors orchestras, such as the New York Philharmonic.

While the terms “symphony” and “philharmonic” are sometimes used interchangeably, it is important to note the difference in their meanings to understand their roles in classical music.

History and Origin of Symphony and Philharmonic

The terms symphony and philharmonic are often used interchangeably when referring to large orchestras. However, there is a slight difference between the two. The origin and history of symphonies and philharmonics date back to the 18th century when the orchestral music scene began to evolve.

  • History of Symphonies: A symphony is an extended musical composition typically consisting of four movements. It originated in the mid-18th century in the Classical period, with notable composers such as Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven being credited for its development. During this period, symphonies were composed for chamber orchestras, but as the orchestral instrumentation expanded, so did the symphonies. By the 19th century, symphonies were often composed for large orchestras, and they became the most important orchestral form of Western music.
  • History of Philharmonics: A philharmonic is an international association of symphony orchestras that perform public concerts, often in a concert hall. The term philharmonic comes from the Greek words “philos” (loving) and “harmonia” (harmony), and it was first used to describe musical societies in Europe in the early 19th century. The most famous philharmonic in the world is the Vienna Philharmonic, which was founded in 1842 in Vienna, Austria. Other notable philharmonics include the New York Philharmonic and the London Philharmonic.

While there is a slight difference between symphonies and philharmonics, both play an important role in the classical music scene. They have inspired and continue to inspire many composers and performers, making classical music a timeless art form.

Conductors in Symphony and Philharmonic

Conductors are undoubtedly the driving force behind any symphony or philharmonic orchestra. They are in charge of interpreting a composer’s work and bringing it to life through the musicians they lead. Despite this commonality, there are some differences in the role of a conductor in a symphony versus a philharmonic.

  • Size of Orchestra: One of the significant differences between symphony and philharmonic is the size of the orchestra. A philharmonic orchestra is typically larger than a symphony orchestra, which can impact the role of a conductor in each, as noted by classical music experts. A larger philharmonic orchestra may require a conductor to be more physical and expressive in their movements to convey nuances across many players. On the other hand, in a symphony orchestra, where often each section only has a few players, the conductor needs to be precise and focused to ensure that all the musicians play together in harmony with uniform dynamics.
  • Repertoire: Another notable difference between symphony and philharmonic orchestra is the kind of repertoire that is often performed. While symphonic pieces can range widely, philharmonics tend to focus on Romantic-era and modern repertoire. Knowing the repertoire can impact a conductor’s approach; for instance, it is not uncommon for a conductor to use more dramatic and emotional gestures in a Romantic-era piece, while using more calculated movements in a classical piece.
  • Style of Conducting: Lastly, the style of conducting varies between the two types of orchestras. Conducting in a symphony orchestra tends to require a more reserved style, while conducting a philharmonic orchestra may involve a slightly more flamboyant approach. However, this is often a matter of personal interpretation and can vary between conductors.

The Role of a Conductor

Now, let’s dive a little deeper into the role a conductor plays in both types of orchestras. A conductor’s primary task is to interpret and communicate the composer’s piece to the orchestra. This is quite a challenging task, as different composers may have different interpretations of the same piece. The conductor’s job is to identify the composer’s intentions and convey them through body language, assisting the musicians by indicating the right tempo, dynamics, and overall mood of the piece.

At the heart of it all, a conductor’s primary job is to lead. They need to be the master of the musical language, and they have to communicate it effectively to the orchestra. A conductor must know how to utilize the special qualities of each orchestra member. They should know how to extract the best of each band player, and at the same time, every player should feel that their musical contribution is acknowledged and valued.

Conducting Techniques and Gestures

Conductors use a variety of conducting techniques and gestures to communicate their interpretation of the piece. They often use hand and facial gestures, as well as body language, to indicate the right mood, tempo, and dynamics of the piece.

Here are some of the conducting techniques and gestures commonly used by conductors:

Conducting Technique/Gesture Meaning/Interpretation
Baton Swipe Indicates the beginning of a new section or phrase.
Finger Pointing Clarifying pitch or rhythm.
Medium-Sized Circles Signifies dynamics and highlights the intensity of the music.
Large Circles Denotes a long passage and suggests a slower tempo.

These are just a few examples of conducting techniques and gestures commonly used by conductors.

Types of Symphony and Philharmonic Orchestras

When it comes to symphony and philharmonic orchestras, there are different types for each based on a variety of factors such as location, size, funding, and more. Here are some of the most common types:

  • Professional Symphony Orchestra: This type of orchestra consists of top-notch musicians who are usually paid full-time salaries. They are typically based in major cities and perform in prestigious concert halls.
  • Community Symphony Orchestra: As the name suggests, this type of orchestra is made up of musicians from the local community who volunteer their time to perform. They may also have a mix of professional musicians in certain sections.
  • Chamber Orchestra: A smaller version of a symphony orchestra, this type typically has 50 or fewer musicians. They often perform in more intimate venues and can be more flexible in their programming.

On the philharmonic side, there are also different types of orchestras:

  • Professional Philharmonic Orchestra: Similar to a professional symphony orchestra, this type of orchestra is made up of top-tier musicians who are paid full-time salaries. However, a philharmonic orchestra often has a broader range of programming that can include operas, ballets, and other large-scale productions.
  • Community Philharmonic Orchestra: Like a community symphony orchestra, this type of orchestra relies on local musicians who volunteer their time to perform.
  • Regional Philharmonic Orchestra: This type of orchestra typically covers a larger geographic area and is made up of musicians who may come from multiple cities or even states. They often perform in mid-sized venues and may have a mix of full-time and part-time musicians.

It’s worth noting that the line between symphony and philharmonic orchestras can be blurry, and the terms are often used interchangeably. In general, a symphony orchestra is focused on performing symphonic music, while a philharmonic orchestra has a wider repertoire that can include opera, ballet, and other genres.

Size and Funding of Symphony and Philharmonic Orchestras

The size and funding of a symphony or philharmonic orchestra can vary greatly depending on its location and level of prestige. Generally speaking, the larger the orchestra, the more expensive it is to run. This is due to the increased number of musicians, administrative staff, and facilities needed.

Many professional symphony and philharmonic orchestras receive funding from a variety of sources, including government grants, private donations, and ticket sales. Community orchestras, on the other hand, may rely more heavily on fundraising efforts and volunteer support.

To give you an idea of the typical size of a symphony or philharmonic orchestra, here is a table showing the number of musicians in some of the world’s most famous orchestras:

Orchestra Location Number of Musicians
New York Philharmonic New York City, United States 106
London Symphony Orchestra London, England 95
Berlin Philharmonic Berlin, Germany 128
Vienna Philharmonic Vienna, Austria 133

As you can see, even among some of the most prestigious orchestras in the world, there is a wide range in the number of musicians and size of the orchestra. However, all of these groups share a commitment to creating beautiful music for audiences around the world.

Famous Symphony and Philharmonic Orchestras around the World

Classical music has been around for centuries, and it continues to draw crowds from around the world. Symphony and Philharmonic Orchestras have been some of the most prestigious musical institutions in the world. Though their names often get used interchangeably, there are differences between them. Orchestras are composed of a diverse range of instrumentalists, but what sets Symphony Orchrestras apart from Philharmonic Orchestras is how the musicians function together.

Symphony orchestras are typically led by a conductor. They focus on playing symphonic music, which features instrumental ensembles that are rich in tonality, harmony, and melody. Symphony orchestras have a standard formation comprising of 70-100 musicians divided into four sections: strings, brass, woodwinds, and percussion. Some of the best Symphony orchestras in the world include:

  • Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra: This German Orchestra is one of the most famous in the world. It was formed in 1882, and since then, it has become famous for its outstanding sound quality and renditions of classic pieces from the likes of Beethoven, Bach, and Brahms.
  • Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra: Established in 1842, this Austrian orchestra is one of the most renowned orchestras in the world. The orchestra’s dedication to performing rich classical music has won them critical acclaim from music enthusiasts.
  • New York Philharmonic: Founded in 1842, this American orchestra is known for being one of the oldest in the world. The orchestra is recognized worldwide for its performances of legendary composers such as Mahler, Beethoven, and Bernstein.
  • Los Angeles Philharmonic: This American orchestra’s unique sound comes from the motivation to perform contemporary music and experimentation in the performance of classical pieces.
  • London Symphony Orchestra: This London-based orchestra was established in 1904, with an essential objective to play standout contemporary classical pieces. They have been instrumental in commissioned works from renowned composers such as Holst, Britten, and Walton.

Philharmonic orchestras, on the other hand, tend to be more flexible in their approach to music. They perform a variety of music styles, including opera, ballet, and chamber. Unlike Symphony orchestras, Philharmonic orchestras do not have a typical formation and can vary in the number of musicians they employ. Some of the most famous Philharmonic orchestras in the world include:

  • New York Philharmonic: The primary focus of this orchestra is to perform a repertoire of orchestral works, but they also venture into chamber music, jazz genres, and operatic productions.
  • Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra: In addition to its symphony performances, the orchestra performs other musical styles, including opera and oratorios.
  • Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra: Like the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra, the Vienna orchestra is well-known for its operatic repertoire and is one of the most significant operatic orchestras globally.

Orchestras are a vital feature of classical music, and fans continue to have a passion for these institutions. The Symphony and Philharmonic Orchestras have operated for centuries and remain as relevant today as they were centuries ago. Regardless of what type of orchestra one decides to listen to, the experience promises to be exceptional, as each performance is an opportunity to marvel at the level of musical talent and commitment to deliver outstanding performances by some of the best musicians in the world.

Orchestra Name Established Location
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra 1882 Berlin, Germany
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra 1842 Vienna, Austria
New York Philharmonic 1842 New York, USA

Some of these orchestras have been around for generations, and even today, they continue to provide a beautiful sound that only classical music can bring to the modern world. If you’re passionate about music, be sure to check out one of these Symphony or Philharmonic Orchestras the next time you attend a classical music concert.

Comparison of Sound and Performance between Symphony and Philharmonic

Symphony and philharmonic may sound similar, but they are actually very different in terms of sound and performance. Both are types of orchestras, but there are key differences in their composition and style of performance.

In symphony orchestras, the instruments are arranged in a specific formation, with strings in the front, woodwinds and brass in the middle, and percussion in the back. The sound produced by a symphony orchestra is typically more balanced and uniform, with a clear emphasis on melody and harmony. In contrast, philharmonic orchestras generally have a larger instrumental section, and the sound produced by these orchestras tends to be richer and more complex.

  • Symphony orchestras usually perform classical music, such as works by Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms. These performances generally follow a conservative and traditional style.
  • Philharmonic orchestras, on the other hand, tend to be more experimental and innovative in their approach to music. They often perform contemporary music and collaborate with modern composers and artists, pushing the boundaries of musical expression.
  • In terms of performance, symphony orchestras tend to follow a strict conductor-led format, with the orchestra playing in a highly synchronized way. In comparison, philharmonic orchestras have more flexibility in their performance style, allowing for individual players to showcase their skills and exhibit a more improvisational approach to music.

Ultimately, the difference in sound and performance between symphony and philharmonic orchestras comes down to their respective traditions, compositions, and musical goals. Symphony orchestras are focused on a more traditional and conservative sound, while philharmonic orchestras are interested in pushing the boundaries of musical expression and experimentation.

Orchestra Type Sound Performance Style
Symphony More balanced and uniform Conductor-led and synchronized
Philharmonic Richer and more complex Flexible and improvisational

Overall, both symphony and philharmonic orchestras are important parts of the classical music world, each with its own unique sound and style of performance. Understanding the difference between these two types of orchestras can give listeners a deeper appreciation of classical music and help them better understand and enjoy the rich and diverse universe of orchestral music.

Employment Opportunities in Symphony and Philharmonic Organizations

If you’re interested in working in the music industry but don’t want to be a performer, there are many employment opportunities in symphony and philharmonic organizations. These institutions require a lot of support staff to maintain their operations, and there are many different roles that you can play in making these performances a success. Here are some of the employment opportunities available to you in both symphony and philharmonic organizations:

  • Administrative staff: Symphony and philharmonic organizations need people to manage their day-to-day operations, including answering phones, filing paperwork, and scheduling appointments.
  • Development staff: These organizations rely heavily on donations to stay afloat, so they need people who can fundraise, write grant proposals, and cultivate donor relationships.
  • Marketing and publicity staff: Handling social media and advertising campaigns, as well as press releases and other promotional materials are the responsibility of marketing personnel.
  • Box office personnel: This includes people who sell tickets, manage will call, and handle customer inquiries at performances.
  • Stagehands: These professionals ensure that performances run smoothly by setting up and tearing down equipment, assisting performers, and executing special effects and stage designs as needed.
  • Librarians: Symphonies require a ton of sheet music, and librarians must oversee and maintain rehearsal and performance materials.
  • Music directors and conductors: This is the most important position in a symphony or philharmonic organization, and it’s held by only the highly skilled and experienced musicians in the industry. They are responsible for leading practice and performance sessions and are the conductors during performances.

As you can see, there are many different types of employment opportunities in symphony and philharmonic organizations. Whether you have a background in music or not, you can find a job in these organizations that will play to your strengths. Be sure to check out websites of these organizations to find their current openings and apply for ones that match your skillset and qualifications. Now that you have an understanding of the job opportunities, it’s up to you to put your passion for music and professional skills to use in the music industry.

Here’s a sample of typical job titles and average pay ranges in symphony and philharmonic organizations.

Job Title: Average Salary:
Administrative Assistant: $30,000 – $40,000
Development Officer: $40,000 – $60,000
Marketing and Publicity Manager: $50,000 – $75,000
Box Office Manager: $30,000 – $40,000
Stagehand: $15 – $30 per hour
Librarian: $35,000 – $45,000
Music Director/Conductor: $75,000 – $200,000+

These salary ranges give you an idea of what you can expect to earn in these roles. Keep in mind that salaries will vary depending on the size and location of the organization, as well as your level of experience and education. However, employment opportunities in symphony and philharmonic organizations offer a chance to work in a high-energy, unique, and rewarding environment that many people feel passionate about.

What is the difference between symphony and philharmonic?

1. What is a symphony? A symphony is a musical composition usually played by an orchestra and typically consisting of four movements.

2. What is a philharmonic? A philharmonic is an orchestra made up of professional musicians who perform classical music.

3. Is there a difference between symphony orchestra and philharmonic? Yes, there is a difference. Symphony refers to a style of composition, while philharmonic refers to an orchestra of professional musicians.

4. What does the term “symphony” mean? The term “symphony” derives from the Greek word “symphonia,” which means “agreement of sound.”

5. What does the term “philharmonic” mean? The term “philharmonic” derives from the Greek words “philos,” which means “loving,” and “harmonia,” which means “harmony.”

Closing Thoughts

We hope this article has helped to clarify the difference between symphony and philharmonic. Whether you’re a fan of classical music or simply curious about musical terminology, it’s always useful to have a good understanding of these terms. Thanks for reading, and we invite you to visit us again for more interesting articles!