Piano symphony

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This article is about piano symphonies. For information on piano sonatas, see Piano sonata.

A piano symphony is a piece for solo piano in one or more movements. It is a symphonic genre by virtue of imitating orchestral tone colour, texture, and symphonic development.


The first piano symphony was written by French composer Charles-Valentin Alkan in 1857. José Vianna da Motta wrote of it, "Alkan demonstrates his brilliant understanding of [symphonic] form in the first movement of the Symphony (the fourth Study [of his Op. 39]). ... The tonalities are so carefully calculated and developed that anyone listening to it can relate each note to an orchestral sound; and yet it is not just through the sonority that the orchestra is painted and becomes tangible, but equally through the style and the way that the polyphony is handled."[1]

Several decades later, Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji wrote his Third Piano Sonata (1922), which he described as a piano symphony.[2] Between the years 1938–1976, Sorabji wrote 6 piano symphonies.[3] Among these is also sometimes included his Piano Symphony No. 0 (1930–1931), which is the complete piano part of his otherwise unfinished 2nd Symphony for Orchestra.[3][4]

Niels Viggo Bentzon described his Partita for Piano, Op. 38 (1945), as a "symphony for solo piano".[5]

The composer John White's Piano Sonatina No. 8 (1961) consists of six movements, of which the fifth is called "Symphony in Five Movements".[5]

Haskel Small has also composed a piano symphony.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/al.asp?al=CDA67218
  2. ^ Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji to Philip Heseltine, 19 June 1922, quoted in Sorabji: A Critical Celebration, ed. Paul Rapoport, Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1992, p. 245.
  3. ^ a b http://www.mus.ulaval.ca/roberge/srs/04-categ.htm#symphonies
  4. ^ http://www.sorabji-archive.co.uk/articles/abrahams_1.php
  5. ^ a b Jonathan Powell, liner notes for Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji, Concerto per suonare da me solo, Jonathan Powell, (Altarus Records, AIR-CD-9081, 2006), p. 8.
  6. ^ http://www.jamesarts.com/releases/oct06/HS_102806.htm