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Thread: Most Overrated and Underrated Symphonies

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    Default Most Overrated and Underrated Symphonies

    As a sequel to the most over and underrated composers, I would like to ask what are the most over and underrated symphonies.

    Overrated: Mozart 41
    Underrated: Vaughan Williams 1

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    Senior Member Becca's Avatar
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    At least the RVW 1st has a toehold in the standard repertoire which is more than can be said for (e.g.) Bantock's Hebridean or Pagan
    As to overrated, Schubert's Great (whichever number you wish to use for it)

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    Overrated: Schubert 9th
    Underrated: Atterberg 6th

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    Overrated meaning that most people rate it much higher than I do?

    Beethoven 9
    Schubert 9*

    Underrated (meaning that I rate it much higher than most people)?

    Too many to list, including the complete Bax cycle.

    * I typed this before seeing the recent replies - it's a bit of a pile on.
    I treat my music like I treat my pets. It’s something to own, care about and curate with attention to detail. From a blog by hjr.

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    I think Mozart 41 is correctly rated high, and RVW 1 is also rated about right - not one of his best in my book.

    Here's two symphonies that I think are frequently thought to be the weakest symphonies from their respective composers:
    Brahms 2
    Beethoven 8.
    Both these are particular favourites of mine.

    As to overrated symphonies I'll be controversial and go with Dvorak 7. Dvorak trying to be Brahms? I prefer his eighth.

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    Senior Member Jacck's Avatar
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    Overrated: most Mozart symphonies
    underrated: Glazunov, Braga Santos, Atterberg, Casella, Stenhammar, Dukas, Nielsen, Magnard, Schmidt, Scriabin, Fibich etc.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jacck View Post
    Overrated: most Mozart symphonies
    underrated: Glazunov, Braga Santos, Atterberg, Casella, Stenhammar, Dukas, Nielsen, Magnard, Schmidt, Scriabin, Fibich etc.
    Are there any specific works, or just their complete sets overall?

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    Senior Member DaveM's Avatar
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    There can be a big difference between what is overrated/underrated and what someone doesn’t like or likes. For instance, saying that Beethoven’s 9th or most Mozart symphonies are overrated seems rather hard to believe..

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    Senior Member Jacck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mahlernerd View Post
    Are there any specific works, or just their complete sets overall?
    I was talking about sets, because some of them I did not hear for some time and do not really remember how I would rank them. But I can try to remember
    Glazunov - all are good
    Braga Santos - all are excellent, especially 3 and 4
    Atterberg - most are great
    Casella - symphony 2
    Stenhammar - symphony 2
    Dukas - just one symphony
    Nielsen - all good
    Magnard - 4
    Schmidt - all, but especially the 4
    Scriabin - all
    Fibich - 3rd

    PS: and I forgot Prokofiev. All symphonies excellent, and I especially like the 2nd, but I am in a minority here.

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    Overrated:

    Schubert 9th
    Hanson (all of them) and anything else the man wrote.

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    Senior Member hammeredklavier's Avatar
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    I agree about Schubert's proto-minimalist 9th. None of Schubert's orchestral works really "stands out" for that matter.
    As for his masses, they're like weaker versions of Haydn's late 6.

    4th symphony - weaker version of Beethoven's 5th and Haydn's Schopfung
    5th symphony - weaker version of Mozart's 40th
    6th symphony - Haydn's 100th
    7th symphony - left in sketches
    8th symphony - incomplete

    He's the only "great composer" who doesn't get criticized for writing mind-numbing 600+ pieces in one genre.
    I mean fking 600+... Please don't tell me they're all unique and distinctive.
    I mean look how Bach gets criticized for his cantatas and Vivaldi for his concertos..

    Underrated compared to Schubert:
    CPE Bach
    Hummel
    Haydn
    Handel
    J. A. Hasse
    etc
    (always ranked lower than Schubert at TC even though they're far more skilled as composers)

    Let's face it. His music is full of vamps, padding, student-like figurations, I think he would have written 2~3 hour-long symphonies with them if he lived longer.
    Interestingly Philip Glass has the same birthday as Schubert and admires him so much

    Quote Originally Posted by hammeredklavier View Post
    Among his last three masses, Et incarnatus est from Mass No. 4 in C major, D. 452 is notable, but again I can cite like 10 moments from Mozart and Haydn that are far more interesting in this regard.

    9:07~11:08

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-ao_hp9PjE&t=9m7s


    While listening to the Trout Quintet and Op.100 Piano Trio, Winterreise, and the impromptus, I often ask, why is it always Mozart and Haydn who get bashed for having written "tafelmusik" and "trivialities"? Schubert's 5th symphony is modelled after Mozart's 40th, but I don't hear in the Schubert piece the elements of "good things of Romanticism" some people always attribute to Schubert at the expense of Mozart and Haydn.
    I think there's a good reason why Rossini completely disregarded Schubert when he said this: "The Germans have always been at every time the greatest harmonists and the Italians the greatest melodists. But from the moment that the North produced a Mozart, we of the South were beaten on our own ground, because this man rises above both nations, uniting in himself all the charms of Italian melody and all the profundity of German harmony"

    underrated compared to Schubert's orchestral works:



    btw, I still remember Jacck's desperate defense of Schubert (which the mods deleted along with eugeneonagain's critique) in one of the old threads about Schubert's D960.
    Last edited by hammeredklavier; Feb-24-2020 at 01:32.

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    Over-rated:
    Rachmaninoff sym #2 - the standard cuts are nowhere near extensive enough.
    Tchaikovsky #s 4 & 5

    Under-rated:
    Schuman #3
    Hanson #3
    Shostakovich #1

    Schubert's #9, in the right hands, is a very fine symphony....Try Toscanini or Reiner....magnificent....too slow, logy, plodding = awful

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    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    I sure do love Schubert, but I gotta say - the 8th and 9th Symphonies get a heck of a lot of unwarranted praise IMO. Great music but they would hardly make my top 30 symphonies. Orchestral music was definitely not his strong suit.

    From a cursory glance at the TC Top 100 Most Recommended Symphonies, a few others that stand out to me:

    Overrated (defined as symphonies that I would place much lower than the list does):

    Mozart 40 and 41
    Berlioz Fantastique
    Mendelssohn 4
    Beethoven 7 (the one symphony of his that I'm sick of hearing)
    Prokofiev 5 (like it, but not among the cream of the crop IMO)
    Tchaikovsky 4, 5

    Underrated (defined as symphonies that I would place much higher than the list does):

    Franck
    Elgar 1
    Vaughan Williams 5
    Brahms 3
    Sibelius 7
    Dvorak 5, 7
    Glazunov, Berwald, Martinu, Schmidt, Ives, Myaskovsky, etc. and all the other "neglected from the concert hall" symphonists

    Overall, I think Schubert and Mozart are the most egregiously overrated, but there are a lot more underrated symphonies that I am an ardent advocate for.
    Last edited by Allegro Con Brio; Feb-23-2020 at 22:50.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveM View Post
    There can be a big difference between what is overrated/underrated and what someone doesn’t like or likes. For instance, saying that Beethoven’s 9th or most Mozart symphonies are overrated seems rather hard to believe..
    Quote Originally Posted by Jacck View Post
    Purcell, Rameau, Charpentier, Schutz, Martinů, Suk, Holst, Gade, Scriabin, Szymanowski, Saint-Saens, Poulenc, Medtner, Raff, Hindemith, Villa-Lobos, Enescu, Salieri, Tanyev, Eben, Alkan, Ornstein, Busoni, Tchaikovsky, Liszt, Bloch

    most overrated are Beethoven and Mozart
    It's a continuation of the same argument: "Mozart and Beethoven are rated highly" = "all their works are rated highly".
    So what evidence is there to suggest Mozart's 21th, 23rd, 26th for example, are rated highly?
    Have they ever been treated like Schubert's vampy, padded-out Quintet at TC for once?
    What is the greatest string quintet?
    Last edited by hammeredklavier; Feb-24-2020 at 01:21.

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    I have never thought Schubert to be "overrated" as but rather easy to propagate to the public. I have always thought he had the most potential if he had lived (like those in the previous posts) and continue to compose until age 60 or so. My understanding is Schubert is "self taught" and did not get any training or schooling in music, as, say Beethoven did with Haydn/Salieri. By all means correct me on this point. So I definitely think he is too long winded in his music but I do not think he would have wrote longer symphonies had he been afforded the opportunities to study with other teachers and read over scores of composers. Schubert is much too gifted to waste time if given the "know how" in constructing his works. I like his fantasia 4 hands, yet the work goes on for almost 20 minutes. One can sense that it is because he has not learned how to think on the problem but simply puts down what he has already composed or thought of without benefit of learning how to write in the sonata style that suits him. His sonata 960....first movement is 20 minutes...I get lost every time.

    This article is revealing but I am concerned about the "hostile" nature the author portrays Schubert. I am not up on Schubert's biography but it does seem extreme in how he see Schubert. Kind of like when scientists do not like a theory, attack the person who came up with the theory.

    So if Schubert had lived and wrote 20 more symphonies, his 8th and 9th would be his just starting to get his bearings and all that talk about "unfinished" is just that, not some perfect symphony as 2 movements.

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