"Symphony" vs. "Philharmonic" in the name of an orchestra: is there a difference?
July 7, 2004 12:40 PM   Subscribe

"Symphony" vs. "Philharmonic" in the name of an orchestra: is there a difference?
posted by casarkos to Writing & Language (10 answers total)
Not to my knowledge. I've seen Symphonies collapse, only to be reborn as Philharmonics, and vice versa. (So in this case, it just matters when listing your credentials.) I'm used to it being just a variation on naming conventions - kind of like how universities decide whether or not to put "university" before or after their state's name.
posted by Sangre Azul at 12:52 PM on July 7, 2004

I googled on "symphony vs. philharmonic" and your answer is in the first and only result. (No difference)
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 1:03 PM on July 7, 2004

To elaborate a bit more, names that *do* tend to mean something are:

chamber: might have reduced orchestration, or focuses on chamber works in which a full orchestra was not needed, in existance at the time, etc. (like Bach's Brandenburg concertos). Common for baroque music. Might have the additional modifier of being "period" or played on "period instruments".

so-and-so's orchestra: anything from a big band to a traveling pit orchestra. Usually used to reinforce the branding of a music act.

"members of": a real crap shoot. Folks from a major orcestra playing in another orchestra, or a chamber group comprised of regulars from a major orchestra, etc.

pops: Playing popular music, like medleys and soundtracks, though war-horses from the symphonic repertoire are also common

wind orchestra: a military band arrangement (i.e., no strings)

pit: Not really in the orchestra's proper name, but it's the term used for an opera/play orchestra - the musicians who play in the pit below the stage.

I'm sure there are more, but that's just off the top of my head.
posted by Sangre Azul at 1:05 PM on July 7, 2004

It has been my intermittent impression that a Symphony is a full orchestra (110 piece?), and a Philharmonic is smaller.
posted by internal at 1:08 PM on July 7, 2004

Here's another google result, this time searching groups with the query +symphony +philharmonic.

And here's the google web search result.

Bottom line is, there is no distinction. Symphony, Philharmonic, Orchestra -- it just depends on what a specific group wants to call itself.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 1:15 PM on July 7, 2004

Also, the size of the orchestra varies depending on the piece being played. Very often there is a core set of payrolled personnel (and even those may not play all the time), with contract players being brought in when doubling or special parts are required.
posted by Sangre Azul at 1:16 PM on July 7, 2004

Somewhat off topic, my absolute favorite orchestra name is the now-defunct "I Solisti di Oakland".
posted by Daddio at 2:44 PM on July 7, 2004

My hometown has an orchestra called Sinfonia de Camera. Is there some special meaning to the particular name?
posted by gyc at 3:06 PM on July 7, 2004

It means 'chamber symphony.' (See Sangre Azul's comment above.)
posted by languagehat at 4:47 PM on July 7, 2004

Anyone remember an episode of Nightcourt where a homeless guy named 'phil' is rumoured to be a millionaire philanthropist? Someone says "ever hear of the new york harmonic?" "it's called the new york PHILharmonic." "it is now, yeah."
posted by Space Coyote at 4:54 PM on July 7, 2004

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