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Module WXM-3020:
19th Century Symphony

Module Facts

Run by School of Music and Performance

10 Credits or 5 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Prof Chris Collins

Overall aims and purpose

  • to enable students to explore the defining characteristics of the 19th-century symphony
  • to enable students to explore the variety of approaches to symphonic composition in the 19th century
  • to enable students to explore the historical and aesthetic contexts of symphonic composition in the 19th century
  • to enable students to further develop their musicological skills

Course content

No genre has maintained a stronger foothold in the concert repertoire than the nineteenth-century symphony. This module explores the development of symphonic form over the course of the century through the several case studies, ranging from Beethoven to Mahler by way of Schumann, Mendelssohn, Bruckner, Tchaikovsky and others. In the process, the module explores contexts surrounding symphony-writing in the nineteenth century, including the reasons for its pre-eminence in the hierarchy of genres, and its continued acclaim today.

The module will address the following topics:

– The symphony at the turn of the century

– Nine case studies, chosen on the basis of staff expertise, but likely to include symphonies by Beethoven, Berlioz, Schumann, Farrenc, Mendelssohn, Bruckner, Tchaikovsky, Mahler and/or others

– The nineteenth-century symphony today

Assessment Criteria

C- to C+

C- to C+ Work which displays fair knowledge of the subject, with some ability at conceptual thought (albeit inconsistent or otherwise flawed), and a general awareness of issues, with evidence of a generally intellectual approach, with good expression


Please also see the Explicit Marking Criteria for Musicology:

A- to A** Work which displays a thorough grasp of the subject, with evidence of further study, deeper thought, originality of approach and excellent written skills.


B- to B+ The work should display a sound grasp of the subject, a good level of conceptual thought, awareness of the main issues, with evidence of intellectual acumen and very good expression.


D- to D+ Work which displays basic, restricted knowledge of the subject with limited ability at conceptual thought, and a limited awareness of issues, but has some evidence of a generally intellectual approach, with fair expression.

Learning outcomes

  1. On completion of the module, a student should be able to demonstrate understanding of the significance of the nineteenth-century symphony in its contemporary and present-day contexts, including the ability to synthesise conflicting scholarly views on this.

  2. On completion of the module, a student should be able to demonstrate skills of critical thinking and analysis in relation to the nineteenth-century symphony.

  3. On completion of the module, a student be able to engage in discourse on a range of symphonies by nineteenth-century composers.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight

Presentations will be held during the course of the semester on dates agreed with the module tutor. Depending on the class size it may be necessary to hold one or more separate sessions for student presentations.


Essay questions are provided in the module booklet, distributed at the start of the module.


Teaching and Learning Strategy

Private study

Private study, including lecture preparation (reading, listening, etc.) and assignments. Each week students will be expected to spend at least two hours on assigned (unassessed) preparation tasks.


Individual consultation on the assessment will be available on demand, up to a total of 1 hour.


One two-hour class in each of the eleven teaching weeks in the semester.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

  • Musicianship skills – recognition, classification, contextualisation, reconstruction, exploration
  • Intellectual skills specific to Music – contextual knowledge, cultural awareness, critical understanding, repertoire knowledge, curiosity, analytical demonstration
  • Technological skills – digital capture, digital expression, digital innovation
  • Intellectual skills shared with other disciplines – research and exploration, reasoning and logic, understanding, critical judgement, assimilation and application
  • Skills of communication and interaction – oral and written communication, public presentation, team-working and collaboration, awareness of professional protocols, sensitivity, ICT skills, etc.
  • Skills of personal management – self-motivation, self-critical awareness, independence, entrepreneurship and employment skills, time management and reliability, organisation, etc.


Resource implications for students


Reading list

Reading lists will be provided as appropriate to the topic studied.

Courses including this module

Optional in courses: