The Symphony Since Beethoven

Beethoven’s legacy proved an inspiration and obstacle to the next  generation of symphonists, who struggled with the implications of  Beethoven’s formal innovations but managed to infuse the symphonic genre  with greatly expanded thematic dimension inspired by the philosophy,  literature, and even visual arts that shaped their own experience. Our  core repertoire will be the symphonies of Mendelssohn (including the  Scottish and the Italian Symphonies), Schumann (including the Rhenish),  Brahms, Bruckner, and Mahler.


Week 1: In the Shadow of Beethoven - An overview

  • Beethoven’s ubiquity

  • Beethoven’s heroic paradigm

  • Beethoven and the sublime

    • The heroic sublime

    • The pastoral sublime

    • The utopian sublime

Symphonic Responses By:

  • Berlioz, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Brahms, Bruckner, Tchaikovsky, Suk, Mahler, Strauss, Busoni

Week 2: Berlioz and the program symphony

  • Symphonie Fantastique (1830)

  • Harold in Italy (with obbligato viola) (1834)

  • “Dramatic Symphony” Romeo et Juliette (with chorus) (1839)

  • Symphonie Funebre et Triumphale (giant wind band) (1840)

Mendelssohn: Reformation, Beethoven Anxiety and Travelogues

Week 3: Schumann: The Master, the Amateur and the Poet

Liszt: The Satanic and Divine

  • Faust Symphony (1854)

  • Dante Symphony (1857)

Week 4: “Brahms the Progressive”

Bruckner: Beethoven and God (or is that redundant?)

Due to revisions, the chronology of Bruckner’s symphonies is quite complex. A separate handout will be provided.

Week 5: Mahler: The Agony and the Ecstasy

  • Symphonies TBD

Strauss and Hindemith


  • Eine Alpensinfonie (An Alpine Symphony), Op. 64 (1915)


  • Mathis der Maler Symphony (1933-1934)

Week 6: Eastern European Tradition


  • Asrael Symphony


  • TBD

Week 7: The Symphony in All but Name

  • Strauss’s Ein Heldenlebe

  • Busoni piano concerto

Week 8: The Heroic Paradigm in the 20th Century

Responses to Beethoven (?) by Sibelius, Nielsen, Britten, Shostakovich, Hartmann, and others TBD

Symphony Since Beethoven Materials

Downloadable Syllabus

Books You Might Enjoy

  • After Beethoven: The Imperative of Originality in the Symphony

    by Mark Evan Bonds

  • The Symphony: A Listener's Guide

    by Michael Steinberg

  • For The Love of Music: Invitations to Listening

    by Michael Steinberg, Larry Rothe

  • Late Idyll : The Second Symphony of Johannes Brahms

    by Reinhold Brinkmann

  • Beethoven and His World

    Princeton University Press

  • Mendelssohn: A Life in Music

    by R. Larry Todd

  • Mendelssohn (Master Musicians Series)

    by the late Philip Radcliffe

  • The Cambridge Companion to Mendelssohn (Cambridge Companions to Music)

    Cambridge University Press

  • Schumann on Music: A Selection from the Writings

    by Robert Schumann

  • Schumann (Master Musicians Series)

    by Eric Frederick Jensen

  • Robert Schumann: Herald of a "New Poetic Age"

    by John Daverio

  • Verdi (Life & Times) (Life&Times)

    by Barbara Meier

  • Crossing Paths: Schubert, Schumann, and Brahms

    by John Daverio

  • Johannes Brahms: A Biography

    by Jan Swafford

  • The Cambridge Companion to Bruckner (Cambridge Companions to Music)

    Cambridge University Press

  • Bruckner (Master Musicians Series)

    by Derek Watson

  • The Essence of Bruckner: An Essay Towards the Undersanding of his Music.

    by Anton]. Simpson, Robert. [BRUCKNER

  • Mahler: A Musical Physiognomy

    by Theodor W. Adorno

  • Richard Strauss: Man, Musician, Enigma

    by Michael Kennedy