Top 10 Symphonies

Discussion in 'Classical Music' started by alanbeeb, May 7, 2004.

  1. alanbeeb

    alanbeeb Grumpy young fogey

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    This has probably been done before... my favourite symphonies and favourite recordings of them.
    Please share yours....

    1. Brahms 4 Kleiber/VPO
    2. Bruckner 5 Chailly/ Concertgebouw
    3. Shostakovich 15 Barshai/Koln
    4. Bruckner 9 Guilini/VPO
    5. Sibelius 7 Vanska/Lahti
    6. Prokofiev 6 Jarvi/SNO
    7. Nielsen 5 Bernstein/NY Phil
    8. Mozart 41 Bernstein/VPO
    9. Shostakovich 4 Jarvi/SNO
    10. Mahler 9 Karajan/BPO live

    Alan
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2004
    alanbeeb, May 7, 2004
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  2. alanbeeb

    tones compulsive cantater

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    Wot, no Karajan Beethoven's 9th (1962 or 197? vintage)? In fact, no Beethoven at all ???
     
    tones, May 7, 2004
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  3. alanbeeb

    alanbeeb Grumpy young fogey

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    Beethoven's ninth might make it into my top thirty. His 7th (kleiber) and 4th (Zinman) might make it into the top twenty.
    My favourite 9th is Norrington's LCP. Wand might get a look in too.
     
    alanbeeb, May 7, 2004
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  4. alanbeeb

    tones compulsive cantater

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    Oh, c'mon, Alan, you've got to have a Beethoven 5th. in there (Karajan '62 or Kleiber) - haven't you? No??? Oh...

    I tend more to baroque (with a particular "thing" about Bach cantatas and Monteverdi's Vespers), so I'm not a great symphonic listener, but I do have a few (all Beethoven, all Brahms, Haydn's London, many Mozart, Sibelius, Schubert, some Vaughan Williams). I'm currently getting to grips with the symphonic language of Shostakovitch, having bought the complete set by Barshai - gotta support local industry (he lives in the next village down the valley). In addition, it was on sale at a good price.

    GrahamN and Titian are the biggest symphonic men around here - I expect one or both will be along shortly.
     
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    tones, May 7, 2004
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  5. alanbeeb

    michaelab desafinado

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    I don't really have a top 10 but mine would certainly include Sibelius 5, Mahler 5 and Rachmaninov 2 .

    Michael.
     
    michaelab, May 7, 2004
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  6. alanbeeb

    alanbeeb Grumpy young fogey

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    oh.. Vaughan Williams.... now I'll have to make it a top 11 and get his 5th in there! Previn/LSO or Haitink/LPO
     
    alanbeeb, May 7, 2004
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  7. alanbeeb

    PeteH Natural Blue

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    They ought to turn this thread into a Channel 4 show :D "The One Hundred Greatest Symphonies Of All Time" - presented by GrahamN :p

    I'll rack my brains this afternoon (hey, I've got a meeting this afternoon and I'll need something to do) and see what I can come up with, though I suspect it'll share some ground with alanbeeb's.
     
    PeteH, May 7, 2004
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  8. alanbeeb

    lordsummit moderate mod

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    gonna have to think about this, but would include:
    Mahler 5
    Shostokovitch Leningrad
    Strauss Alpine Symphony
    Prokofiev Classical
    Mozart 41
    Beethoven 7
    Saint Saens Organ Symphony
    Tchaikovsky Pathetique
    Shostokovitch 5
    Liszt Faust Symphony

    Is that 10 already

    I'll get back to this
     
    lordsummit, May 7, 2004
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  9. alanbeeb

    GrahamN

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    Oh...this is such an invidious and horrendous task, cutting out so much great and wonderful music :cry: . Anyway here's my 10 ;)

    1= : Beethoven 7/C.Kleiber, 8/Karajan/BPO(77), 9/Karajan/BPO(77)
    2= : Mahler 1/Bernstein/Concertgebouw, 2/Solti/LSO (if I can find a decent trasfer). Possibly also the live 3/Abbado/BPO and 9/Karajan/BPO.
    3= : Berlioz Symph. Fant./Davis/Concertgebouw; Sibelius 2/Gibson/SNO, 3/Vanska/Lahti, 5/Oramo/CBSO, 6/Davis/Boston
    4= : Vaughan Williams 1/Handley/RLPO, 2/Hickox/LSO, 5&6/Handley/RLPO
    5= : Rachmaninov 1/Ashkenazy/Concertgebouw, 2/Previn/LSO
    6= : Bernstein 1/Bernstein/IsraelPO; R.Harris 3/Bernstein/NYPO(?)
    7= : Brahms 1/(? Abbado/LSO ), 2/(? Wand/NDR); Beethoven 5/C.Kleiber/VPO; Bruckner 4/Wand/BPO, 7/Karajan/BPO, 9/Skrowaczewski/Saarbrucken
    8= : Shostakovitch 8/Previn/LSO('73), 10/Jarvi/SNO; F.Schmidt 4/F.Welser-Moest/LPO; Szymanowski 3/Rattle/CBSO; Gorecki 3/Zinman/L.Sinfonietta
    9= : Alwyn 3/Hickox/LSO; Bax 6/Handley/BBCPhil; Rubbra 4/Hickox/LSO; Tubin 5/Jarvi/BambergerSO
    10= : Mozart 40&41/Mackerras/PragueSO, Haydn 92-104/Davis/Dresden

    So that's 10 then :D

    While I also enjoy the Alpensinfonie immensely, that's not really a symphony so doesn't qualify. Same with Stravinsky's "Symphony of Psalms", and (more arguably) Bantock's Hebridean and Celtic symphonies - either of which would probably also have crept in at 9= (or 90th).

    Cheating apart, the selection would of course be different depending on the interpretation of the question; i.e. a different answer for a) "pick 10 symphonies to be your sole collection for the rest of your life", b) "pick 10 symphonies from which one will be selected to be your only recording for the rest of your life". And of course this is completely different from trying to answer the objective (and impossible) question, c) "which are the greatest 10 symphonies".

    Answer to a) would probably be:
    Beethoven 9, Sibelius 6, Mahler 2, Brahms 1, Shost 8, RVW 6, Rach 2, Schmidt 4, Alwyn 3 (although it's tought to leave out Szymanowski 3), Haydn 102 (or maybe Mozart 41)

    Answer to b) would probably be Beethoven 9, Beethoven 8, Sibelius 2, Mahler 2, Mahler 3, RVW 2, Sibelius 4/Vanska/Lahti (!, although I'd probably then top myself after about 3 months), Shost 10, Berlioz Sym. Fant., Bruckner 7.

    Answer to c) - not touching that one with a bargepole!

    And if I had to pick just one; easily Beethoven 9 as it has everything you need in one beautifully balanced 1 hour package (notwithstanding any arguments about whether the last movement works as a single structural unit or not).
     
    GrahamN, May 8, 2004
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  10. alanbeeb

    alanbeeb Grumpy young fogey

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    I have never tried any Alwyn - what recording are there that would be a good introduction? What sort of style of music?
     
    alanbeeb, May 8, 2004
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  11. alanbeeb

    lordsummit moderate mod

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    Hmm not entirely sure about that. Don't know the symphony of Psalms that well, but if Symphonie Fantastique is allowed then I think the Alpine Symphony should be:p
     
    lordsummit, May 8, 2004
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  12. alanbeeb

    GrahamN

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    Hickox/LSO+CoLSinfonia did a full cycle of his symphonies (5), concerti and other pieces on Chandos; I have 3 & 5. I don't really know much else of his. Apparently, he was principally a film composer, but did "serious" music as well and was Professor of Composition at the RAM for 30 years. His style is "neo-romantic", and filmy influences do break in from time to time (although that doesn't worry me at all - I should also have put Korngold's Symphony in F# minor in my cheat list too); I just noticed a horn-call in the middle of the last movement of the 3rd that is exactly the opening flourish to "The Simpsons", but written 34 years earlier (although it only happens in that harmonisation once). The 3rd was written in 1955/6, and can I guess be best described as inhabiting the same sound-world as the more sinister parts of Holst's "Planets Suite" (some very insistent rhythms in the outer movements reminiscent of Mars, but more development goes on, and elsewhere shades of Saturn and Neptune - although nothing close to a quote), and later Vaughan Williams (i.e. his "non-patoral" mode, e.g. the 6/7/8th symphonies). The middle movement has a similar sense of desolation to parts of the RVW 6th. There's also an interesting formal thing going on as well (inspired by the construction of Indian ragas) the outer movements are based on a scale comprising 8 of the 12 semitones, and the central movement is (mostly) confined to the other 4 - which imparts a slightly gamelan-ish feel to it; risky but comes off magically. 'Fraid I don't really rate the Violin Concerto (1937-9) that it's coupled with, though.

    3 is a clear masterpiece, the shorter (16 minute) 5 less so. This does have some wonderful moments - like quieter episodes reminiscent of "Tristan" or "Verklaerte Nacht" - but there's a few too many cases of worthy note-spinning and bluster (particularly at the opening) for its own sake - the major problem I also see (in much greater measure) with Malcolm Arnold. That disc does though contain a wonderful (1970) Sinfonietta for Strings (shades of Honegger, "Verklaerte Nacht" again, "Chant du Rossignol", "Metamorphosen" and "Tapiola") - but I'm a complete sucker for scrunchy 20th cent string music. Actually rereading the liner notes, it turns out the whole thing is based on a quotation from Berg's "Lulu" - hence the anguished nature of the theme. The work-up though is anything but serial/atonal, keeping within a harmonic language somewhere alongside Verklaerte Nacht and Metamorphosen. Pure delight!! The third piece on that disc is the premiere recording of the (unperformed) 2nd Piano Concerto. This is again unashamedly romantic - I would say mostly Ravel-influenced, with a healthy dose of Rachmaninov too (and a dash or two of Scriabin for good measure), spiced up with a bit of Bartok/Prokofiev in the outer movements. The last movement is really quite Bartok/Prokofiev and jazzy - with a couple of luscious 'big tune' episodes that're pure Rachmaninov (or even Addinsell ;). The lack of performance was due to the scheduled soloist (1960 Proms) becoming paralysed in one arm. Can't really see why no-one else took it up - it certainly doesn't deserve to be completely forgotten and is easily as good as (or better than) Rach 4, Prok 4&5 etc.

    From what I hear in the music, Alwyn's major problem was that when he was writing his best "serious" music (1955+), you weren't allowed to write tunes and harmonies - it all had to be plinks and plonks to be taken seriously. That seems to have been the same problem for William Lloyd Webber too.

    Actually, given the similarities in sound-world, maybe I shouldn't have put both RVW 6 and Alwyn 3 on the same desert island list. And how I forgot Nielsen 5 (Blomstedt - I don't know the Bernstein) as well completely escapes me, particularly after being reminded by your first post.

    (Do you know that Schmidt 4 as well - truly wonderful piece!)
     
    GrahamN, May 8, 2004
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  13. alanbeeb

    GrahamN

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    Symphonie Fantastique is a tightly structured (although not sonata form, more variational) opening movement, scherzo, ternary slow movement, and rondo finale (OK the "March to the Scaffold" is a bit of an extraneous insertion). That's a real symphony - even if some of the music may have been garnered from previous compositions, and I'm not too bothered generally about tonal relationships between movements (even if some commentators/composers, such as Robert Simpson, see that as the crux of symphonic form). Alpensinfonie is a succession of short, truly wonderful tone-pictures that make a great arch - but nothing like a symphony. On the same basis Also Sprach would count - and probably more so as it has more clearly defined opening, scherzo, slow and finale sections. Regarding their respective programmes, the Berlioz programme to me seems substantially irrelevant, whereas the music in the Strauss is led by the nose by its programme and (particularly in the Alpensonfonie) makes very little sense without the programme. Not saying any of them are not a wonderful pieces though.

    Symphony of Psalms is to my eyes a simple suite of three choral pieces - with an awful lot of mingling of the moods between the movements. If that's a symphony, then so is Bernstein's "Chichester Psalms", except the latter has a far more symphonic structure!

    Actually this year looks like Alpensinfonie's year: NYO did a pretty good rendition of it at the Barbican a few weeks ago (gloriously luscious and superbly played strings and perc, weighty if rather ropey brass, woodwind clearly well below the pro standards we have come to expect from them in recent years), and currently now booking are:
    - Slatkin/BBCSO at the Proms (bit nervous about what they'll do to that - could be the dampest squib of the season)
    - Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester (under FW-M) next March at the Barbican,
    - Previn/LSO in June (2005) - Barbican again.

    Not bad for a very rarely played work :rolleyes: .

    Bloody busses!
     
    GrahamN, May 8, 2004
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  14. alanbeeb

    HenryT

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    1) Beethoven 3 and 7

    Abbado/VPO

    2) Beethoven 9

    Harnoncourt/COE

    3) Tchaikovsky 5

    Andrew Litton/Dallas SO (live at RAH / BBC Proms)

    4) Tchaikovsky 6

    Slatkin/Philharmonia (live at RFH)

    5) Rachmaninov 2

    Yakov Kreizberg / Bournemouth SO (live at Southampton Guildhall)

    6) Saint-Saens 3

    Dutoit/Hurford/Montreal SO

    7) Mahler 1 and 4

    Abbado/BPO + Abbado/von Stade/VPO

    8) Copland 3

    Bernstein/NYPO

    9) Shostakovich 5

    Solti/VPO - not convinced by this performance but it's the only I own at the moment. :rolleyes:

    10) Mozart 41

    I don't actually own a recording of this yet! :eek: :shame: It's definitely my fave Mozart symphony though, despite the catchy well known theme from number 40 which is appears to be a very standard choice for onwers of Nokia mobile phones. ;)


    Yes, I've slipped in a couple of concerts performances I've attended in the past which aren't available to buy as recordings, but thought I'd mention them as they have stuck in my mind and seem preferable to the recordings I currently own.

    Oh, then there's others which I've not had space to mention like Haydn's London symphonies, Sibelius, any other of Beethoven's other, some of Mahler's like his 5th and 8th, sigh... :MILD:
     
    HenryT, May 8, 2004
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  15. alanbeeb

    HenryT

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    Alwyn

    :lol: LOL!

    That reminds me, speaking about a piece of classical music that bears resemblance/influence to a TV theme tune, I'm sure there's a piece by Poulenc (or is it Janacek :confused: ) with a recurring trumpet fanfare theme in that has the same tune as the first couple of notes of the "Knight Rider" theme tune. :D I'm going to have to go away and search this out now as I'm sure I've got in my collection somewhere...
     
    HenryT, May 8, 2004
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  16. alanbeeb

    lordsummit moderate mod

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    I saw that Tchaik. 5. Didn't Joshua Bell play the Barber as well, and they did an encore with the Dallas Theme Tune. That is my all time favourite concert
     
    lordsummit, May 8, 2004
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  17. alanbeeb

    Gromit Buffet-blower

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    Having played in a few (but not these recordings unfortunately) I'd have to choose:

    1. Shostakovich 8: Haitink/Concertgebouw (the finest woodwind section in the world)
    2. Rachmaninov 2: LSO/Previn - still nothing to touch it after all these years.
    3. Mahler 5: Philharmonia/Barbirolli - recognised by many (including those who play it) as THE finest recording of any Mahler, ever. A true 'One in a million' where everything came right on the day. Shame the CD transfer was a disaster :(
    4. Richard Strauss: Ein Alpensinfonie (ok, really a tone poem but bear with me!): Difficult one this - I love the Berlin Phil/Mehta for the HUGE sound but I'd take the Concertgebouw/Haitink for the beautiful music-making and less indulgent tempi - ie it sounds better when you don't drag the arse out of it.
    5. Vaughn-Williams: Sinfonia Antartica - film music CAN also turn into a wonderful symphony (he wrote the film score for Scott of the Antarctic before the Symph). Can't remember the recording, but the one with the poem recitation between each movement. Wonderful.
    6. Tchaik 4: VPO/Abbado (on a budget label too).
    7. Shostakovich 10: BPO/Karajan - at the time, possibly the finest Horn section in the world. 2nd & 3rd movements - I defy your hair not to stand up. Terrifyingly barbaric and totally wonderful - orchestral heavy metal.
    8. Shostakovich 15: LPO/Haitink - one of Decca's last analogue recordings at the Kingsway Hall (1978), and like Barbirolli's Mahler 5, a true must-have. Wonderful sound (the band aren't bad too!)


    Can't think of any more at the moment...will try again tomorrow (too much vin) :D
     
    Gromit, May 8, 2004
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  18. alanbeeb

    alanbeeb Grumpy young fogey

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    I have the Wesler Most recording of Schmidt's 4th - its a very good symphony but not among the greats. But I suppose if I was looking at this from a German or Austrian perspective i would say the same thing about Vaughan-Williams. In my original list I have sort of tried to choose things that would be considerd universally, not coloured by regional or national fame. Vaughan Williams symphonies are probably not very well known outside the English speaking world, just like Schmidt and Reger are fairly rare here in the UK - as was also the case with Bruckner until 20-30 years ago.

    Putting this universal qualifier to one side, I would definitely want to include VW's 5th, tippet's 4th, Maxwell Davies 1,2 or 6 and Robert Simpson's 9th in my favourites.

    On Nielsen, I am not sure if the Bernstein recording of the 5th is still available.... I have the Blomstedt version and its very good, but the Bernstein one, recorded in the 1960s, is an absolute cracker that explodes with energy. I got it in a 1990's4 Cd set of all the Nielsen symphonies and concerti. Bernstein does 2-5 with the NY Phil (except no. 3 with the Royal Danish Orchestra) and Ormandy/Philadelphia do 1 & 6. All jolly good and worthwhile, though Bernstein's no. 4 is too expansive.

    I also have Ormandy recordings of Shostakovich in no 4, 10 and 15 - all of them superb. Ormandy's reputation is not as big as it should be.
     
    alanbeeb, May 9, 2004
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  19. alanbeeb

    GrahamN

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    Ah, if we're talking about objective greatness, then it's mostly a completely different list (although Beethoven would still head it for me!). E.g. Mozart would certainly be higher up, it's just that I hardly ever enjoy anything by him.

    Spurred on by the hype, I've got most of that Simpson/Handley cycle, and quite like 2&4, but 9 really leaves me cold. Following Simpson's liner notes through while playing allows it to make more sense, but I'm afraid that's an academic exercise rather than musical involvement. I find much more involvement from most of Tubin's and several of Holmboe's symphonies (particularly his 6th).

    On Shostakovich, I don't have a 4 but need one - particularly after that searing performance Gergiev gave at the Proms two years ago. Recommendations? The authorities seem to go for Mravinsky or Rattle; I have to say I'm far from a Rattlemane. That Szymanowski is great and I quite like his Britten, but I think he rips Mahler to shreds, and what little I've heard of his Beethoven is pretty uninspiring. From the pieces I've heard, Shostakovich has too many spots of utter banality (probably excepting the 10th) mixed in with the movements of genius for anything less than a stunning performance to really convince. Haitink doesn't normally do much for me either in most composers (hate his Bruckner and Strauss, can just tolerate his Mahler, do like his Ravel and Debussy though), but I was very pleasantly surprised and moved by his recent 8th at the Barbican. Others in the frame seem to be Jarvi - and now Ormandy?

    I should probably have put Prok 5&6 somewhere in the lists too - it's just that I hadly ever play them. Will probably be re-evaluating that following some stunning concerts by Gergiev with the LSO this week (quite clearly outplaying the VPO the previous week, no question - except for cloth-eared arts page reviewers). Shame they were so poorly attended.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 9, 2004
    GrahamN, May 9, 2004
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  20. alanbeeb

    alanbeeb Grumpy young fogey

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    I've heard several Shostakovich 4 - the best overall IMHO is Neeme Jarvi and SNO.
    both Haitink and Rattle beautify it too much. Ormandy is v.good but not sure its still available. Barshai/Koln is very good but not as good as jarvi.
    totally agree with your comments about Rattle - his Mahler is v. poor and the recent Mahler 5 with BPO is a stinker. i think he's going downhill to be honest. That said, the 9th he did with the VPO would be great if it wasnt for the dreadful sound quality.

    I thought his Bournemouth SO recording of Mahler 10 from 1980 was much better then the recent BPO one.
     
    alanbeeb, May 9, 2004
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