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How many do you want?
In no particular order: Mahler, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Elgar, Sibelius, Nielsen, Simpson, Vaughan Williams, Arnold, Pettersson, Bantock, Suk, Messiaen and Nielsen, or did I already include him?
Enjoyable but great?: Tournemire, Magnard, Rubbra, Martinu, Honegger and Miaskovsky.
Cannot make my mind up for Hartman but the 6th is an astonishing work.
I am not convinced by the Baltic symphonists such as Tubin, Holmboe and Part.
I find the American symphonists do not "stick" but Hanson's "Romantic" is worth the occasional outing and Ives' 4th is fun.
I wonder whether Dutilleux should be in there somewhere.
Also enjoyable in a poor mans Sibelius sort of way, Atterberg.
Wow, a lot of great music is being mentioned here, I’m glad I stopped by. Although I could go on forever listing great modern works, I will simply list five works that rank amongst the most incredible symphonies of the twentieth century:
Elliott Carter: A Symphony of Three Orchestras (1977) (A very complex symphony by a very complex and misunderstood composer. His music requires very careful listening to understand.)
Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony No. 15 in A Major (1971) (there are a number of great performances of this work, but Ormandy’s was the most rewarding for me.)http://www.amazon.com/Shostakovich-Symphony-No-15-Sonata-No-2/dp/B00003OP6Z
Osvaldas Balakauskas: Ostrobothnian Symphony (1989) (An underrated Lithuanian composer . His Ostrobothnian Symphony is magnificent and remains as his greatest masterpiece. I wish I could say more about it, but when it comes to describing symphony of this magnitude, I’m simply at a loss of words.)
Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 9 In D Major (1910) (I nominate the version by Boulez. And for all people who think Boulez is just some dried-up intellectual that doesn’t comprehend beauty in music, this recording should prove them wrong.)
Claude Debussy: La Mer (1905) (I’d recommend this excellent collection of orchestral works conducted by Charles Dutoit. It includes many of his best works: La Mer, Jeux, Prélude à L'Apres-midi d'un Faune, Nocturnes and some other stuff. If you were looking to explore Debussy, this would be an excellent starting point.)
Thanks to all fo your replies. There's a lot of good stuff being mentioned that I will explore!
Am I right in thinking that the symphony in the twentieth century passed out of the province of the Austro-German tradition into other geographical areas?
Would the said Austro-German tradition reach its peak in Mahler?
Are the more interesting twentieth century symphonists British, American, Eastern European and Scandinavian?
Whither the symphony in the twenty-first century?
Fraz Jo - disapntd. Bn ringin this grl al week. No ansr...looks lke she changed her mnd. O well...Ldwg...
Sorry - forgot to add - frostwalrus - I would agree with you on Shostakovitch 15 and Debussy's La Mer. I am not entirely sure about Carter's Symphony of Three Orchestras - the opening trumpet fanfare is astonishing but I think the short (15 minute work)gets a bit laboured after that arresting start. I am not sure I quite 'get' Mahler symphonies - I like 1,2 3 and to a certain extent 4 but 7 for instance seems to have bewildering changes of mood! In honour of Mahler's centenary I shall give him another go!
One should not forget the great contemporary Finnish composer Kalevi Aho, with 14 symphonies as of yet! The easiest way to appreciate his music is to listen to the Symphony 7 (Insect Symphony), especially the interpretation by the Lahti Symphony Orchestra under Osmo Vänskä. http://www.bis.se/index.php?op=album&aID=BIS-CD-936
Apart from Sibelius and Shostakovich, as mentioned in the OP...
Mahler, of course. Even if you don't care for him , you have to admire him.
Prokofiev - terribly underrated, due to mangling of conventional forms.
Vaughan Williams. For me the cycle starts at 2 and just gets better and better.
Bax - it's easy to lose track in these works, but taken on their own terms they're wonderful.
Hindemith. Always an afterthought, but he did actually write symphonies! Shame he didn't number them.
Hanson is still seen as saccharin and banal, but further performances may reveal new things. I think his 6th has been underestimated.
Rachmaninov deserves an honourable mention for his strong, affecting work in the genre.
I'm afraid Nielsen bores me.
'Art doesn't need philosophers. It just needs to communicate from soul to soul.' Alejandro Jodorowsky
Thanks to all for your replies and suggestions.
Sibelius Shostakovitch Neilsen Mahler Prokofiev Honegger Martinu Stravinsky Hartmann Korngold Magnard Dutilleux
Vaughan Williams Bax Tippett David Matthews Moeran Rubbra Brian Simpson Elgar Walton Rawsthorne Alwyn Berkeley Arnold Dyson
Lutoslawski Penderecki Panufnik Gorecki (what an achievement it was when the 3rd Symphony broke into the popular as well as the serious charts) Part Holmboe Tubin Pettersen Langgaard Aho Klami
Copland Harris Hanson Carter Schuman Barber Thompson Sessions Ives
There's a heck of a lot to explore! And eyeresist, I agree let's not forget Rachmaninov, whose first symphony I heard a couple of years ago in concert and it struck me as a powerful and dynamic work.
I now know more about who wrote decent symphonies in the twentieth-century. Still not so sure - without further listening it must be said - who the undisputed masters were!
Someone who isn't often thought of as a symphonist, but who wrote four pieces called "Symphony" (or "Sinfonia"), three of which are undoubted masterpieces, is Britten. (To my humble ears, the Cello Symphony is the finest concertante piece for cello ever written, although I'm preparing to be shot down by enraged Elgarians/Dvořákians/Haydnfans etc.)
I have been discovering the symphonies of David Matthews and am very, very excited by them. Now, I admit I am a big softie for the English symphony. I take it as read that Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Walton, and Tippett, are great composers who wrote great symphonies. They are world class composers. But I also have always had a soft spot for, and to be honest, I love, Rubbra, Alwyn, Arnold, Simpson, Moeran; and I think Searle, Rawsthorne, Bliss, Bax and Frankel, all interesting and worth a listen. Maxwell Davies, it seems to me, started off very strongly as a symphonist, and falls away as he goes along. Where is Matthews in this?
Well, it seems to me that his 6th is a real breakthrough masterpiece, a big romantic symphony with huge tunes (admittedly the best one is someone else's!). It's a piece which I would have thought ought to be capable of finding as much of an audience as the Elgar/Payne symphony, or RVW 5. Working backwards, I was dumbfounded by the extraordinary beauty of the 3rd. The slow movement of the 5th is Mahlerian. I am quite clear that this symphonic cycle is as important as those of Simpson or Arnold, and I look forward to hearing the next ones.
Although of course Matthews is a 21st century symphonist, and maybe not belonging on this thread!
Yes, I think it is true that the Austro-German domination ceased at the beginning of the 20th century when British & American composers came into their prominence. As I have said elsewhere I think Elgar's two the greatest symphonies of the 20th century followed by Vaughan Williams's as the two absolute masters. Then the others such as Bax, Rubbra whilst EJ Moeran's sole symphony is quite a minor masterpiece. The thing I find about VW's as compared to say Bax & Rubbra is VW's greater variety of style from the choral first to the somewhat exotically scored Antartica which is more like a tone poem. I've also only recently come accross Bax's two major piano & orchestra pieces Winter Legends & Symphonic Variations which are as much symphonies as piano concerti (he described the former as a symphonia concertante for piano & orchestra whilst the latter is probably one of his longest and most massive scores).
Then of course there's Charles Ives who started out with an almost pure Dvorak imitation in his first symphony, even down to the rather beautiful cor anglais melody in the slow movement to, for something completely different, the crazy Holidays Symphony which I played a recording of last night with its dissonances, folk melodies, sudden branches into a barn dance, a military band and of course his famous recollections of bands playing different pieces simultaneously. An amazing piece for its time years ahead of the avant garde.
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