From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48 [gcide]:
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.
From WordNet (r) 3.0 (2006) [wn]:
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