Author Topic: Confessions about your all-round favorite symphony  (Read 615 times)

Offline Roland Flessner

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 160
Re: Confessions about your all-round favorite symphony
« Reply #15 on: July 19, 2019, 05:43:44 PM »
I could never declare a favorite symphony, but it’s certainly fun to call out a few examples, in this case temporarily setting aside works by Mahler:

Prokofiev 2: Tough going for me at first with an industrial-sounding first movement, but I’ve come to like it a lot. The second movement theme and variations is highly imaginative and beautifully contrasted.

Prokofiev 3: Figured prominently in my high school years as it seemed to speak directly to my adolescent alienation. Try the weird scherzo with heavily divided strings playing eerie glissandi.

Prokofiev 5: Despite its popularity, I think it’s hard to bring off, but for me faster tempos in the first movement tend to work better.

Prokofiev 6: Again, this one really spoke to me in my early years of discovering classical music, and I love it just as much today. I think it’s a neglected masterpiece of 20th Century music (along with the second piano concerto).

Shostakovich 8: When you’re young and drawn to fast and loud, this symphony’s long stretches of slow and quiet can be daunting. But what an eloquent and powerful work, once you grasp its architecture. And it would be hard to find a more ferocious and and cathartic climax than at the end of the second scherzo and beginning of the passacaglia.

Rachmaninov 2: A beautiful, and beautifully constructed, symphony that for me works best uncut and with the first movement exposition repeat observed.

Borodin 2: To my ears, this work is just perfect. Powerful first movement, spritely scherzo, gorgeous slow movement and a celebratory finale. You could call it a textbook example of a classically proportioned symphony, but that would risk ignoring its expressive strength.

Haydn 88: Perhaps my fondness for this one owes to it being the first Haydn symphony of my acquaintance, but its wit and charm shine as brightly as ever.

And finally, Beethoven 8. Since its humor eludes many conductors, it tends to be the weak point in Beethoven symphony sets, but in a performance such as Szell/Cleveland, it’s irresistible.

Offered with profuse apologies to many, many other deserving works.


Offline shawn

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 37
Re: Confessions about your all-round favorite symphony
« Reply #16 on: July 19, 2019, 08:29:20 PM »
Hello Roland,

What a bouquet of Russian greats  ;D

It's funny you mention the 'less accessible' Prokofiev's, because I also admire them greatly, and their uncompromising nature is very much what I hear and admire in Vaughan Williams's Fourth!

Maybe it's just me, but I tend to have a great fondness for underdogs. That's why I crave Mahler's Seventh so much, not only because of its wonderful music, but also very much out of frustration that people often call this one of Mahler's 'least known works'. Yeah, of course it's one of the least known, but that's not Mahler's fault! It says a lot more about these people.

I can get frustrated when I see today's orchestras programming the same old tired main repertoire, like Prokofiev's Classical Symphony. There's nothing wrong with that work, but there are inordinate amounts of performances and recordings of that symphony, lesser so the Fifth, while the true greatness of Prokofiev, imho, can be found in the other symphonies! I also have a fondness for his Seventh, it has great atmosphere, almost ethereal!

The Third symphony is very, very contrasted, with a lot of what people not familiar with classical music would probably call 'noise', but the quieter sections are almost unbearably lyrical, mysterious, foreboding. Wow...

Rachmaninoff 2 is an endless stream of melodies coming straight from the heart, masterfully paced and orchestrated. The Adagio is almost erotic (note the climax) and that's not a criticism! If the coda of the Finale doesn't leave you with a warm glow, you're a better man than I am  :-[

Offline barryguerrero

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 475
Re: Confessions about your all-round favorite symphony
« Reply #17 on: July 20, 2019, 07:51:08 AM »
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.

Offline erikwilson7

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 39
Re: Confessions about your all-round favorite symphony
« Reply #18 on: July 20, 2019, 11:33:27 PM »
It's extremely difficult to pick just one favorite (besides Mahler), but if I had to choose one it would be Beethoven's Eroica. It is just flawless to me, and I can never tire of it. There is no piece of classical music I know better than this symphony. Manfred Honeck's release last year was a game-changing recording and it’s my new favorite, but I'll always return to Karajan and Solti. Here are some of my honorable mentions:

Scheherazade by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Is it a symphony? Pretty much. I admire every moment of this most colorful work. I have a special fondness for Russian composers. The third movement, The Young Prince and the Young Princess, is one of my favorite symphonic movements. I also really like the meter changes in the fourth movement as well as the imaginative percussion writing.

Symphonie fantastique by Hector Berlioz. This is the piece that got me hooked on classical music to begin with. It started it all, back in college. I love its journey, from hopeless romanticism to pastoral loneliness to opium overdose to diabolical orgy. What a trip! I still haven't gotten around to Harold en Italie, but I imagine I would like it. Michael Tilson Thomas with San Francisco is my absolute go-to recording. One of his better accomplishments, in my opinion.

And, as previously mentioned, Rachmaninoff's Second Symphony. Every note of this symphony is pure bliss. I have so many memories tied to listening to this symphony in many places. Just like Roland Flessner mentioned, I prefer this symphony uncut with the first movement exposition repeat. My all-time favorite recording is Gennady Rozhdestvensky with the London Symphony Orchestra, however lately I've been appreciating Vasily Petrenko with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.

I also love Brahms' First Symphony. In fact, it's hard to choose which of Brahms' symphonies I like most, but it's probably the First. I'm also a big fan of his Third. Andris Nelsons' recent release of the four symphonies in Boston was incredible, in my opinion.

Dvořák's Eighth and Ninth Symphonies are incredible pieces to me. I performed his Eighth and it quickly became one of my favorite symphonies of all time. Manfred Honeck's release with Pittsburgh is my top choice for that one.

Do symphonic poems count? If so I'm going to throw in Eine Alpensinfonie and An American in Paris.
« Last Edit: July 21, 2019, 01:51:26 AM by erikwilson7 »

Offline barryguerrero

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 475
Re: Confessions about your all-round favorite symphony
« Reply #19 on: July 22, 2019, 06:50:50 PM »
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

Offline barryguerrero

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 475
Re: Confessions about your all-round favorite symphony
« Reply #20 on: July 23, 2019, 06:05:19 AM »
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

Offline Leo K

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1349
  • You're the best Angie
Re: Confessions about your all-round favorite symphony
« Reply #21 on: July 23, 2019, 02:35:18 PM »
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

Offline Vehemence

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 235
Re: Confessions about your all-round favorite symphony
« Reply #22 on: July 23, 2019, 02:36:45 PM »
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.

Offline shawn

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 37
Re: Confessions about your all-round favorite symphony
« Reply #23 on: July 23, 2019, 07:06:00 PM »
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

Offline shawn

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 37
Re: Confessions about your all-round favorite symphony
« Reply #24 on: July 23, 2019, 07:18:57 PM »
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.

Offline Roland Flessner

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 160
Re: Confessions about your all-round favorite symphony
« Reply #25 on: July 27, 2019, 02:36:48 AM »
We have so many interesting comments to respond to here that I don't know where to start, and the risk of not mentioning something that should be commended is high.

Eine Alpensinfonie clearly qualifies as a real symphony, IMHO. Scheherezade probably does too. I used to loathe it (R-K, that is) but have come to love it recent years. I cite Temirkanov/NY as one of the finest recordings of anything ever made.

The Eroica is fascinating on many levels, and would deserve its legendary status just on its own merits. Straddling the Classical and Romantic eras as it does, it's also a work to demonstrate the spectrum of performance practice from radical HIP to a more traditional Romanticized interpretation. When someone is skeptical that all this stuff makes a difference, I A-B the beginning of the Eroica in the Sawallisch/RCO and Dausgaard/Swedish Chamber Orchestra recordings. No one so far has failed to grasp the difference. (The Sawallisch seems dishearteningly flabby at first, but if you can get past that it's possible to enjoy really fine playing and a deep rapport between conductor and orchestra.) Just to make this even more fun, Herbert Blomstedt conducted it here in Chicago a couple years ago, and when it was over, I realized to my astonishment that during the performance I was never tempted to place it along the HIP to traditional spectrum; the performance just worked and the music seemed to speak for itself.

Not sure how I left Dvorak off the list, but I'd add #7 too. The "New World" is one of the pieces that ignited my interest in classical music, and #8 has long been a favorite too. I'm glad his late symphonic poems--The Water Goblin, The Golden Spinning Wheel, The Noon Witch and The Wood Dove--are finally getting some traction in the repertory, because they are all outstanding works.

 

SMF spam blocked by CleanTalk