Who were the great twentieth century symphonists?

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RE: Who were the great twentieth century symphonists?

This thread got me wondering: What are the top ten most subjective questions asked on 'classical' music forums?

As a starter:

"Who were the great twentieth century symphonists?" - 'great' not defined, is impossible to define to the agreement of all, ('symphonist' not defined either, come to that,) no one answering is likely to have heard, let alone listened to, even the smallest percentage of all symphonies written in the 20th century...so all answers entirely subjective, or actually answers to a different question.

Still, it's better than "What are you listening to right now?" or "What have you got on order?"!

 

 

 

 

RE: Who were the great twentieth century symphonists?

 

Not in agreement with you at all. My original question was meant to be an invitation for serious music lovers to discuss a question that does bother me.

We all accept who the great classical symphonists were, but the question in the twentieth-century seems to me to be more vexed, as to who the undisputed masters of the form were.

Apart from composers such as  Sibelius, Shostakovitch, Mahler and Neilsen I honestly do not know. It would appear from the helpful comments/suggestions that there is a general feeling that British composers like Elgar. Walton. Bax. and Vaughan Williams are worthy of being 'up there' with the greats. I am honestly thankful for the comments posted.

Regards

Partsong

Fraz Jo - disapntd. Bn ringin this grl al week. No ansr...looks lke she changed her mnd. O well...Ldwg...

RE: Who were the great twentieth century symphonists?

So far, Bartók has not been mentioned. Arguably, his Concerto for Orchestra, while not labeled a 'Symphony', could be classified as the greatest of them all.

Somewhat in the same category falls Janacek's Sinfonietta.

RE: Who were the great twentieth century symphonists?

Quote:

So far, Bartók has not been mentioned. Arguably, his Concerto for Orchestra, while not labeled a 'Symphony', could be classified as the greatest of them all.

No, it couldn't - all you mean is that you like it a lot! If you seriously think it's the greatest of them all, you haven't listened to very much.

 

Quote:

We all accept who the great classical symphonists were, but the question in the twentieth-century seems to me to be more vexed, as to who the undisputed masters of the form were.

We don't all accept who the "undisputed" greats were - there are plenty of "serious music lovers" who have an aversion to Brahms or Mozart or Mahler.

There are a lot of funny people in the world; people listen in different ways; people look for or expect different things from music. So it's utterly pointless to even start thinking there are undisputed greats. Your question should have been: "What are your favourite symphonists or symphonies, or who/which do you think are the greatest?" Because all the answers you've received are answering that question, and only that one.

 

 

RE: Who were the great twentieth century symphonists?

Wigmaker wrote:

 ...so all answers entirely subjective, or actually answers to a different question. 

Of course it's subjective, it can't be (nor should it be) anything else. I responded with my opinions (and they are no more than that) which unsurprisingly reflect my personal taste.

Do you have any opinions on 20th century symphonies of your own to offer?

RE: Who were the great twentieth century symphonists?

I'm surprised and disappointed that no one mentioned Nikolay Myaskovsky-to me the giant of Soviet symphonists. Others worth mentoring include Tubin, Skulte, Melartin, Shebalin Boris Tchaikovsky, Eshpai, Lyatoshynsky, Weinberg, and of course Shostakovich and Prokofiev. Another commentator mentioned the Americans, and rightly so, though I would add William Grant Still to the discussion (and Antheil for that matter). Atterberg is also worth mentioning, although he is not poor man's Sibelius as troyen1 puts it (he's a much more stronger personality than that I found). As for Nielsen, indeed a great Dane.

David A. Hollingsworth

RE: Who were the great twentieth century symphonists?

Quote:

Of course it's subjective, it can't be (nor should it be) anything else. I responded with my opinions (and they are no more than that) which unsurprisingly reflect my personal taste.

Well, exactly.

Quote:

Do you have any opinions on 20th century symphonies

Yes...

Quote:

of your own to offer?

No. I don't mind if others want to do it, but I can't see the point. No one knows me, so how can my opinion -  as opposed to a statement of facts by me - be interesting to anyone?

RE: Who were the great twentieth century symphonists?

First of all, thanks to Chris and Dave for defending their opinions and the validity of this thread.

Dear Wigmaker,

Ok I actually take your point about the use of words like 'great' and 'symphonist'. However, if we object to those words then we ought to be careful that we are not hoist with our own petard.

You yourself used the word 'classical' in the line beforehand. What does 'classical' mean? I have never really felt comfortable with the term, because to me, 'classical' means, strictly speaking, from the classical period. So what else do we call it? 'Serious' music, 'Art Music' (gaining some ground)?'Proper Music'?

Mozart called the Stamitz family 'a family of wretched scribblers' Funny, yes, but contemptuous. With the passage of time he was probably right - I would think that only a classical period enthusiast would listen to Stamitz and sons. Yet ultimately his opinion.

I also do not like the term 'classical' because if I pop into somewhere like HMV to order a CD and say, to some student behind the counter, 'I'd like to order a CD please by Gavin Bryars. He's a classical composer', I feel uncomfortable not just with the word 'classical' but also because I feel I am having to 'apologize' for ordering that genre of music.

We all have our own thoughts about terms used.

However, if I had worded the topic 'most notable symphonists', most 'widely regarded symphonists', most 'significant symphonists', then you or others might still have objected to the wording.

There is subjective opinion, yes. Of course there is. I recently discovered that there are completely different editorial interpretations of the shakes, trills and mordants used in Bach's two-part inventions between the AB edition and the Urtext edition of the same text. How is that possible? Presumably the editors must have some knowledge of the music in order to be editors, yet there are completely different suggestions as to the way those ornaments are to be played.

Presumably any decent conductor would start by comparing different editions of the same score in order to arrive at 'their' take on it.

If a reviewer remarks that the playing on this CD by such and such an orchestra is superb - is that not also subjective opinion?

The editors themselves have recently invited a general fisticuffs on Mahler - a contested composer - and the results so far have been surprisingly tame!

So there is subjective opinion. There is though something called consensus of opinion. My agenda in posting the question was to find out if there is such a consensus of opinion as to who the most important 20th Century Symphonists were. That is a perfectly reasonable topic for debate.

My own view- we are not far enough removed from the 20th Century yet to acknowledge who the symphonic greats were, after taking on board what people have said in reply.  There is some consensus of opinion and some conflicting opinion.

Has anyone written a study called 'The Symphony in the 20th Century'? What would we call such a book - would we call it 'authoritative' 'wide-ranging' 'superb' 'A forerunner'? One thing is for sure, such a study would call for a great deal of research.

Perhaps you might like to get involved on the 'subjectivity versus objectivity' thread which has been posted very recently on the 'general discussion' part of the site.

Regards

Partsong

Fraz Jo - disapntd. Bn ringin this grl al week. No ansr...looks lke she changed her mnd. O well...Ldwg...

RE: Who were the great

Wigmaker wrote:

DaveF wrote:

... if the question had been about the greatest 19th-century symphonists, I would unhesitatingly have included Brahms, even though I don't really much care for his music.

Why? (To both parts of that last sentence.)

Well, I know the Brahms symphonies pretty well, own full scores as well as several recordings, and would judge that they were among the finest works of the second half of the 19th century.  Why don't I much like them?  Not really my period, that's all: the 15th and 16th centuries are where I really belong.

Quote:

That's hardly fair on Hovhaness, is it? What if someone had only heard Beethoven's First & Second? Or his Fourth & Eighth? Or only his Ninth, come to that? And if they'd only heard Schubert's Eighth & Ninth, they might well say that Schubert was the greater symphonist.

No, I don't think it's unfair to Hovhaness not to include him among the last century's greatest symphonists.  As far as Beethoven goes, don't forget that Elgar first understood the power of orchestral music through reading the score of Beethoven's 1st.  And some people who know all of both Beethoven's and Schubert's symphonies might still say that Schubert is the greater.  Why should one have to choose?

DF

RE: Who were the great twentieth century symphonists?


DaveF wrote:


Wigmaker wrote:


DaveF wrote:

Perhaps there are no 20th-century symphonists as undisputedly great as Beethoven, but that doesn't mean there aren't any that most serious listeners would rank higher than others, without necessarily having to hear every note of symphonic music written in the last century.  I've only ever heard one or two of Hovhaness's many symphonies, but I don't think I need to hear all the rest in order to decide whether he's in the front rank or not.

That's hardly fair on Hovhaness, is it? What if someone had only heard Beethoven's First & Second? Or his Fourth & Eighth? Or only his Ninth, come to that? And if they'd only heard Schubert's Eighth & Ninth, they might well say that Schubert was the greater symphonist.

No, I don't think it's unfair to Hovhaness not to include him among the last century's greatest symphonists...

I’m in an agreement with Wigmaker in that it’s unfair to completely dismiss the importance of a composer after only listening to one or two of the composer’s works. I experienced this with Shostakovich’s works. People were always telling me how great his 1st, 5th, and 7th symphonies are, but I didn’t like any of them. For me, it was a bad first impression of Shostakovich. It wasn’t until I listened to his 15th symphony that I realized what Shostakovich was truly capable of. I don’t have a problem with anyone dismissing any composer, but to so without first exploring a good amount of that composer’s work would seem like a mistake.

frostwalrus

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