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My listening buddy loves the Rachmaninoff Symphony #1 so much, he hand copied the score in 1958, when he was 12. He tells me one of his fondest memories was learning that he could get scores from the Library of Congress for 6 weeks on loan. He possess a dozen or so scores that he copied. In his retirement he has been putting together a compare/contrast of all the recordings that exist for the work.

That's great Vehemence, and I could hardly blame him, because Rach 1 is an amazing work, especially for a first symphony. It was almost universally panned by critics, which put Rachmaninoff in severe depression. But history has vindicated this work. The Rach 2 is much more performed these days, and still remains my favorite, but it is by no means better or more inspired than No. 1.
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Thank you for that thoughtful post. I recently downloaded a broadcast of Williams's 4th Symphony (Roger Norrington) and this day looks like as good as any to cue it up!

That's great, Leo, I hope you'll enjoy it  :D
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For me it started in 1987 with listening to Bernstein's Harvard Lecture series on LP where I first heard about Mahler and the 9th symphony (Bernstein talks about the adagio).

I ordered Kaplan's M2 on a whim in 1989 and that was when I first heard a full Mahler symphony. I didn't know what to think at first, as this work seemed classical, romantic, modern and even post-modern in one package - nothing seemed to tie together at all. 

Bernstein, Karajan and Abbado were my main introductions to the other symphonies in 1990. After hearing Karajan's M6 and Chailly's M10 I became obsessed beyond measure. 

Then there was a TV broadcast of Abbado's inaugauration concert with the Berliner in 1989 (broadcast in the Netherlands in the summer of 1991) - incredible show.

In 1995 De Waart's live M7 revealed the utter excitement of hearing this music live.

The rest is history!
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Mahler's 8 took some time to hit me but once it did I've also never looked back. It is near the top of my favorite Mahler these days.

I think it was a cocktail of Maazel, Gergiev (with that awesome reverb), Zinman, Berlioz, and ultimately Witt that make it click.  A few years after that I realized I loved the famous Solti (the same recording that made me dislike the work years ago).

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I like Rachmaninoff symphony #1 because it's the most overtly Russian sounding one - closer to Rimsky or Borodin. I love the trumpet fanfares (with percussion) that starts the finale, as well as the series of tam-tam strokes at the end of the finale.

for Prokofiev, I really like P3, P5 and P7. Of the five piano concertos, I love the 2nd and 3rd ones. I also like the solo piano sonatas.

My listening buddy loves the Rachmaninoff Symphony #1 so much, he hand copied the score in 1958, when he was 12. He tells me one of his fondest memories was learning that he could get scores from the Library of Congress for 6 weeks on loan. He possess a dozen or so scores that he copied. In his retirement he has been putting together a compare/contrast of all the recordings that exist for the work.
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Thank you for that thoughtful post. I recently downloaded a broadcast of Williams's 4th Symphony (Roger Norrington) and this day looks like as good as any to cue it up!


Perhaps this topic has already been discussed on this board.

'I'm not at all sure that I like it myself now. All I know is that it's what I wanted to do at the time'

Well, people are often amazed when I confess about my favorite symphony from the complete symphony repertoire. I can understand that all to well. Because my favorite is an extremely nihilistic work, very forbidding, hardly accessible. It's not the kind of symphony you want people to hear when introducing them to Classical Music, because they'll probably run away screaming.

Here it comes...

Ralph Vaughan Williams' Fourth Symphony.

Yes. He tops my list.

There's something uncompromisingly honest about this work which I admire greatly. The mood is dismal throughout, but RVW counters those feelings, successfully and spine-chillingly with few moments of repose, which are extremely bitter sweet, not quite consoling, but unbelievably beautiful. The Fourth is a totally different deal than RVW's more pastoral symphonies (the 3rd, 5th). Copland once described the Fifth as looking at a cow for a considerable amount of time. In that respect, the Fourth is more like running away from a raging bull.

The Fourth is masterfully crafted. It's certainly not just a case of 'I felt depressed and disturbed, and therefore wanted to write it to shout a lot'. For what it's worth, William Walton called it the greatest symphony since Beethoven!  :o

My very favorite recording of this symphony? It was my first acquaintance of the work, Bernstein's on Sony. You know, on that embarrassing Royal Edition. Of course, Prince Charles' water color painting on the front had nothing in common with this boisterous symphony. But it's a great reading, and very well recorded considering the often disappointing sound Columbia got from the New York recording venues. Bernstein's approach to the first movement is much more measured, not so hectic, but without sacrificing the severity of tone.

And severe it is. Some see it as a portrait of war, but WW I ended some 16 years before. May be it's more of a Mahlerian premonition, towards WW II.

In fact, I think it's RVW's most Mahlerian symphony. Comparable to the Tragic Mahler Sixth, although the latter is on a much larger scale, uses a larger orchestra (especially brass) and feels more classically organized than RVW. What makes RVW's Fourth also special, for me, is the fact that it is very expressionistic, without sacrificing the basic principles of tonality.

Well, there you have it. What's your confession about the symphony that holds first place in your book?  ;D
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To me, Benjamin Britten's "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" (variations on a theme by Purcell) is really underrated. It's not only a good young person's guide, it's a good everybody's guide. I really like this recording with Paavo Jarvi/Cincinnati S.O. on Telarc. I believe Dave Hurwitz gave it a 10/10 at Classicstoday.com

https://www.amazon.com/Britten-Persons-Orchestra-Interludes-Variations/dp/B000GYI3U4/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=britten+paavo+jarvi&qid=1563861715&s=music&sr=1-1
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Yes, I really like both the "Eroica" and the Strauss Horn Concerto (#1) that's on that M. Honeck/Pittsburgh disc from R.R.

https://www.amazon.com/Beethoven-Symphony-Eroica-Strauss-Concerto/dp/B07GJ5G4CZ/ref=olp_product_details?_encoding=UTF8&me=&qid=1563821340&sr=1-1
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I very much agree on the subject of Düsseldorf. They are very musical, dark hued, much clarity. And they have a very big advantage over the other German orchestras:  nobody saw them coming! They took us by surprise, and what a surprise it turned out to be. Mahler wasn't exactly a standard on the menu there... (certainly not on disc). Fischer's most acclaimed recordings to that date were probably his Haydn symphonies. Mostly very thrilling, though even Adam Fischer couldn't resist the trend to fiddle with dynamics (in a very arbitrary manner). I don't hear that at all in his Mahler. Everything is very natural, but never ever boring.

I really feel that Paavo is a better conductor than his father.

No argument here. The Residentie M7 was weird. The first and last movements were what we might call 'normal' in duration, but they sounded much slower when compared to the hurry of the middle movements. 13 minutes for the first Nachtmusik, and not even 10 minutes for the second Nachtmusik. It can be very interesting to be on the fast side in M7 (Kondrashin in Amsterdam, for example), but without due consideration for structure and proportions, Järvi's recording simply sounds incapable.
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That's difficult for me to say. They strike me as being somewhat similar to what one hears in Koln. As far as 'characterful' playing in Mahler from a German orchestra goes, I think the Dusseldorf people are hard to beat - at least for the moment. That may have a lot to do with the acoustics and the way they're recorded. It obviously has something to do with Adam Fischer's influence as well. The Dusseldorfers seem to get a mix of the 'Jewish'/New York sound that Bernstein got, and the more 'dark' hued yet controlled playing that we normally associate with German orchestras. Obviously, the Bavarian R.S.O. and the Dresden Staatskapelle can provide 'characterful' playing as well. Anyway,   .    .    .

You can see much of Paavo Jarvi's video cycle from Frankfurt on Youtube. Virgin Classics issued a very good "Resurrection" symphony with P. Jarvi/Frankfurt R.S.O. on CD. I really feel that Paavo is a better conductor than his father.
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