Symphony vs Philharmonic
The difference between symphony and philharmonic is in the way the players of symphonies like to refer to themselves. We will see how that happens. The word orchestra is very ancient, coming from a Greek word that means an area in front of the stage that is usually kept for chorus. In modern times, it has come to refer to a group of musicians that sit together and play various musical instruments. When the size of orchestra is small and there are around 50 players, it is referred to as a chamber orchestra, while with a size of 80 to 100 players, it may be called a symphony orchestra or a philharmonic orchestra. Many people remain confused regarding differences between symphony and philharmonic orchestra. This article will attempt to find out differences, if any. However, by the end of the article, you will see that there is no need for confusion.
What is a Symphony Orchestra?
Mostly, it is chamber orchestra that plays symphony out in front of a regular crowd, but there are times when a larger number of musicians are assembled together to play a symphony. Such an orchestra is called symphony orchestra and has usually 80 musicians, but the number may be more or less depending upon the piece of music as well as the occasion or the venue. Symphony orchestra plays symphony music. Also, it carries different types of instruments such as string, woodwind, brass, and percussion instruments. An example for a symphony orchestra is the London Symphony Orchestra.
What is a Philharmonic Orchestra?
A philharmonic orchestra is also a symphony orchestra. It has the same number of players; that is between 80 and 100. Also, another common factor is the variety of instruments that belong to many categories such as string, woodwind, brass, and percussion instruments.
To find whether there is any difference between symphony and philharmonic orchestra, let’s take the example of London philharmonic orchestra and London symphony orchestra. Here, one finds that these two different orchestras play well known, as well as obscure compositions and both have the same number of musicians that ranges from 80-100 in comparison to chamber orchestra, which typically has around 50 musicians. So, it is a matter of nomenclature really; nothing more as to why an orchestra is called symphony or a philharmonics. In fact, it often boils down to what a group of musicians likes to be called by others.There have been instances when symphonies have collapsed, only to be reborn as philharmonics later on.
What is the difference between Symphony and Philharmonic?
A group of musicians that sit together and play various musical instruments are known as an orchestra. Depending on the number of players orchestras can be divided into two. They are chamber orchestra and symphony orchestra.
• Chamber orchestra:
Chamber orchestra is a small orchestra that has about 50 players. Not more than that. Since this orchestra is very small, all the players may play string instruments. They also play older tunes that were composed for the musicians to play in private hall and such places.
• Symphony orchestra:
A symphony orchestra is a large orchestra with players ranging between 80 and 100.
• Philharmonic orchestra:
Sometimes, some symphony orchestras call themselves Philharmonic, instead of using the term symphony. This is a matter of identity. This is done especially for the audience as well as the players to identify themselves with a particular group.
So, there is no difference in the number of players, the music played, or the instruments used between symphony and philharmonic orchestra. The difference is only in the name as a way of identifying themselves.
As you can see, the difference between symphony and philharmonic orchestra is in the name only. That difference is used by different symphonies so that they can identify themselves separately from others. If both symphony groups in London, which we took as the example, had the same name as London Symphony Orchestra, how are we to identify one from the other? This name difference you can see mostly in large cities where there are multiple symphonies. As they both play the same kind of music, you will be able to enjoy yourself in the same manner, whether you choose a symphony or a philharmonic orchestra.
- Chicago symphony orchestra by Jordan Fischer (CC BY 2.0)
- Dublin philharmonic orchestra by Derek Gleeson (CC BY-SA 3.0)