tone poem

A tone poem, or symphonic poem, is a substantial orchestral work intended to interpret a non-musical idea, picture, or literary work. At its extreme this type of work shades into three other forms: concerto (for example, Richard Strauss's Don Quixote with cello solo and Berlioz's Harold in Italy, a "symphony" for viola solo); symphony (for example, Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique or Debussy's La Mer); and overture (Beethoven's Egmont and Coriolan, and Dvořák's Hussites). The tone poem is a direct descendant of the mood-setting overtures of Gluck, Cherubini, Méhul, Weber, and Mendelssohn.


The earliest tone poem was César Franck's Ce qu'on entend sur le montagne, after Victor Hugo, completed about 1846.