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Sym"pho*ny (?), n.; pl. Symphonies (#). [F. symphonie (cf. It. sinfonia), L. symphonia, Gr. &unr_;; sy`n with + &unr_; a sound, the voice. See Phonetic.] 1. A consonance or harmony of sounds, agreeable to the ear, whether the sounds are vocal or instrumental, or both.
The trumpets sound, Dryden.
And warlike symphony in heard around.
2. A stringed instrument formerly in use, somewhat resembling the virginal.
With harp and pipe and symphony. Chaucer.
3. (Mus.) (a) An elaborate instrumental composition for a full orchestra, consisting usually, like the sonata, of three or four contrasted yet inwardly related movements, as the allegro, the adagio, the minuet and trio, or scherzo, and the finale in quick time. The term has recently been applied to large orchestral works in freer form, with arguments or programmes to explain their meaning, such as the “symphonic poems” of Liszt. The term was formerly applied to any composition for an orchestra, as overtures, etc., and still earlier, to certain compositions partly vocal, partly instrumental. (b) An instrumental passage at the beginning or end, or in the course of, a vocal composition; a prelude, interlude, or postude; a ritornello.