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Thread: Symphony 5=Quality Asssurance

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    Assistant Administrator Chi_townPhilly's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Symphony 5=Quality Asssurance

    Ever since Beethoven penned his most famous symphony, it seems that composers have shown a tendency to give of some of their best when they write for a piece that bears the heading "Symphony #5." As examples, I'd cite-
    • Schubert
    • Bruckner
    • Tchaikovsky
    • Mahler
    • Sibelius
    • Shostakovich
    • Prokofiev
    Every one of these, I'd argue, is a clear masterwork (though I recognize that some might have reservations about my inclusion of Bruckner. Additionally, I'm slightly conflicted about placing Schubert 5 in this company).

    Mention also should go out to Nielsen, as well as Vaughan-Williams. Hey, there are even those who believe that Mendelssohn's Reformation symphony rates more attention that it has typically received. Anyone else find this interesting?

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    Senior Member opus67's Avatar
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    Unlike the classical period, Beethoven and later composers limited themselves to a 'few' symphonies due to various reasons, so it is possible the some of them wrote good ones in the middle. Some might even argue the same for some other number.
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    Senior Member ChamberNut's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chi_town/Philly View Post
    Hey, there are even those who believe that Mendelssohn's Reformation symphony rates more attention that it has typically received
    Yes, I agree. Although this was not technically his 5th symphony, but his 2nd. Mendelssohn's "Reformation" Symphony No. 5 is neck and neck as my favorite along with his 4th "Italian".

    You're right though, it seems to be alot of many great #5's out there.

    Another interesting take would be........Beethoven 5th's? How many great 5th's did he write? Consider Symphony No. 5, Piano Trio # 5 "Ghost", Violin Sonata No. 5 "Spring", Piano Concerto No. 5 "Emperor"! Not too shabby

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    I have no problem whatsoever with you including Bruckner's 5th among those great masterpieces.

    It is in it's rightful place there, as are virtually all the Bruckner symphonies.

    Some people acuse him of being repetitive. For the sake of not starting a veritable argument about who I think is repetitive, I'll just leave it at that.
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    Senior Member Frasier's Avatar
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    Can't agree with a few of your list but you did say "arguably" so I'll argue for

    Shostakovich - Symphony 10
    Prokofiev - Symphony 7
    Sibelius - 4 or 6. His 5th is a joyous pop chord thing but not his best, surely. One fatigues easily to it.
    Tchaikowsky - 6. The 5 is nice, the andante being one of the most beautiful things I've heard but all in all for many reasons, the 6th is the bizniss.

    For that matter, I'm none too sure about the Beethoven - yes, the most popular symphony though the close of the last movement is pretty appalling but I'd go for the 9th. Others might choose 3 as his first push forward into a true Beethovenian world.

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    Senior Member Kurkikohtaus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frasier View Post
    Sibelius - 4 or 6. His 5th is a joyous pop chord thing but not his best, surely. One fatigues easily to it.

    Dude...

    ... well, you're entitled to your opinion, I guess.

    Chi_Town, nice idea here, something that has also occured to me. From your list, I would question only the inclusion of Schubert and Bruckner, for these reasons:
    1. Is the work know as his 5th really his 5th? There is much confusion with the numbering of his later symphonies, I don't know how accurate the numbering of his earlier ones are. Any scholars care to comment?
    2. I believe the piece we know as the 5th is hugely overshadowed by the Unfinished and the Great C Major, at least in terms of popularity.
    3. Lastly, Bruckner's 5th is certainly a great piece, but again, overshadowed in popularity by number 4 for Newbies, number 7 for Initiates, and number 8 for Fanatics. Said differently, is anyones favourite Bruckner Symphony Number 5?



    _______________________________________
    EDIT
    _______________________________________

    Re-reading your first post, I realize that you are not saying that the 5th is each composer's best, but simply that they are quality works. So over all, I agree with your list in its entirety. Ignore my **** rebuttal if you wish.
    Last edited by Kurkikohtaus; Aug-14-2007 at 08:29.

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    Senior Member ChamberNut's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kurkikohtaus View Post
    [*]Lastly, Bruckner's 5th is certainly a great piece, but again, overshadowed in popularity by number 4 for Newbies, number 7 for Initiates, and number 8 for Fanatics. Said differently, is anyones favourite Bruckner Symphony Number 5?[/LIST]


    _______________________________________
    EDIT
    _______________________________________

    Re-reading your first post, I realize that you are not saying that the 5th is each composer's best, but simply that they are quality works. So over all, I agree with your list in its entirety. Ignore my **** rebuttal if you wish.
    See "Bruckner Symphonies - What am I missing thread."

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    Senior Member opus67's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kurkikohtaus View Post
    [*]Lastly, Bruckner's 5th is certainly a great piece, but again, overshadowed in popularity by number 4 for Newbies, number 7 for Initiates, and number 8 for Fanatics. Said differently, is anyones favourite Bruckner Symphony Number 5?[/LIST]
    What is the difference between newbies and initiates?
    Regards,
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    I have to say, Bruckner's Fifth isnt my favorite either. However, I have noticed this pattern in various composers' symphonies. As it may not ring true as "the best" to everyone's liking, it is still somewhat striking. I would also add Arnold's 5th- definitely! Too bad Brahms didnt have a Fifth Symphony. (But the fifth Hungarian Dance is the most popular of them all.)

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    Senior Member Kurkikohtaus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by opus67 View Post
    What is the difference between newbies and initiates?
    To clarify my nomenclature, a Newbie would be someone who is totally new to Bruckner, while an Initiate is someone who has been "initiated" into the Bruckner world and has heard a few of the symphonies several times.

    I know, shaky ground.

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    Assistant Administrator Chi_townPhilly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric683 View Post
    Too bad Brahms didnt have a Fifth Symphony.
    I remember reading Chicago Symphony Orchestra program annotator Phillip Huscher say that, due to fastidious housekeeping on the part of the Brahms household, we are without a fragmentary Brahms 5th to place alongside Bruckner's 9th and Schubert's 8th. Apparently, there's evidence to suggest that some ideas from Brahms' attempt were conscripted for other works (c.f.: Schubert Rosamunde) and the remainder was discarded.

    I was wondering if our esteemed Assistant Administrator and "go-to" guy on Brahms, Daniel, had ever heard anything in support of this assertion.

    If true, it's another interesting "what-if" of music history. Maybe I'd have another entry on my list.

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    Senior Member ChamberNut's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chi_town/Philly View Post
    I remember reading Chicago Symphony Orchestra program annotator Phillip Huscher say that, due to fastidious housekeeping on the part of the Brahms household, we are without a fragmentary Brahms 5th to place alongside Bruckner's 9th and Schubert's 8th. Apparently, there's evidence to suggest that some ideas from Brahms' attempt were conscripted for other works (c.f.: Schubert Rosamunde) and the remainder was discarded.

    I was wondering if our esteemed Assistant Administrator and "go-to" guy on Brahms, Daniel, had ever heard anything in support of this assertion.

    If true, it's another interesting "what-if" of music history. Maybe I'd have another entry on my list.
    I think why Brahms' output isn't nearly as large as say Schubert, Mozart, or even Beethoven is because he re-worked and re-tooled and scrapped works frequently. That's evident with the amount of work and effort to come up with his first symphony and first string quartet.

    I personally would love to find out that Brahms has a long lost score for a Clarinet Concerto, since the clarinet had rejuvated his composing juices late in this life.

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    Senior Member Daniel's Avatar
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    Hello and sorry, Chi_town/Philly,

    actually I haven't seen this question until now.

    Well, I haven't heard of any plan to a 5th symphony by Brahms in particulary, but that he might have done some sketches, is indeed possible. It is somehow very demanding to get closer information on fragments or little ideas or sketch-books Brahms did during his whole life, because they have often been destroyed, and we own just a rare field of authentic sources. That is caused by Brahms' "preventing" methods and a high self-critic.
    Brahms composed the 4th symphony in 1884/1885. If he had done some works for a 5th, he might have worked on them maybe earlier (very hypothetic) or later... Since we can notice a presentiment of the end of this his life in the early 90s, and since Brahms began to put his works into a final order, and to separate works, which he wanted to be published and which not. He set up a testament. And in the action of this long time of organising, there was enough time to destroy so many sketches and "unpublishable" works again. So it is a hard job for any musicologist to get a clear view of Brahms' plans in his last years. But we should realise: If Brahms knew this his own end coming, he might not have started such a huge work like a symphony in this his very last days. And I have no information, if he might have used some sketches for other well-known works, because we don't have many sketches at all.

    But in thinking how I am acting as a composer, how many ideas, motifs and sketches are done inside, on papers and books, I think there is a high possibility, that Brahms worked out plans for a symphonic work, even if he wasn't sure himself, for what specific work they could be worth. 12 years are a long period. But let us imagine, that the formal and harmonical way and solution of a new symphony would have been another challenging duty for Brahms, who walked a very difficult and dangerous line in his very last works (choral works, or even piano works: What is that? Is that a "new" way? Leading to where? A limited way? After Liszt, Wagner, to Mahler, to the French?).

    But, maybe once we will know more. Sorry for being unable to access any further information concerning this matter right now.

    Greetings,
    Daniel
    Last edited by Daniel; Oct-04-2007 at 00:30.

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    So here's my vote for Bruckner's fifth. It is my favorite. It and the ninth are very close in my book, and so tomorrow I might vote for the ninth. But the fifth is the one I listen to most frequently. It's just a lovely, lovely piece--the loveliest in an oeuvre that's pretty consistently lovely.

    Of course, Bruckner's fifth is actually his seventh symphony. (Making my least favorite third his real fifth. I take that back. His first, the f minor study symphony is my least favorite. The 00, as it were. You see how bewildering this whole "fifth" thing is?)
    Last edited by Daniel; Oct-04-2007 at 11:58. Reason: Language

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    Senior Member Handel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by opus67 View Post
    Unlike the classical period, Beethoven and later composers limited themselves to a 'few' symphonies due to various reasons, so it is possible the some of them wrote good ones in the middle. Some might even argue the same for some other number.
    I wonder what Haydn could have produce if he had lived during Beethoven's era: 104 symphonies to 10, 15?
    At first, I discovered the wonders of classical music through the marvels of its baroque period and especially those from Mr. Handel, which explain my forum nickname. About 10 years ago, my interest leaned over classical period and Herr Haydn's production. The music bus recently drove me to the early 1800s. Where will it end?

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