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Thread: Top 10 Symphonists of the 20th Century - Ranked

  1. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bulldog View Post
    I hope that I will someday appreciate Sibelius more than I do currently. My present feeling is that his music tends to lack forward momentum and drive.
    Who have you listened to? For me he has more natural drive and momentum than any symphonist other than Beethoven.

    However a lot of performers seem to me to get in the way of that. I'd suggest either Blomstedt, Vänskä or Neeme Järvi.
    Last edited by Ulfilas; Oct-28-2020 at 04:01.

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  3. #32
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    Hanson deserves mention...he's certainly equal to, or greater than some of those already mentioned.

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  5. #33
    Senior Member Torkelburger's Avatar
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    My favorite 20th century symphonists are as follows, in particular order:

    1. Shostakovich
    2. Stravinsky
    3. Prokofiev
    4. Mahler
    5. Sibelius
    6. Vaughan Williams
    7. Martinu
    8. Honneger
    9. Bax
    10. Nielsen
    11. Henze
    12. Penderecki
    13. Walton
    14. Hindemith
    15. Rachmaninoff
    16. Bernstein
    17. W. Schuman
    18. Hanson
    19. Mennin
    20. R. Simpson
    21. Persichetti
    22. Copland
    23. Diamond

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  7. #34
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    It looks like nobody else rates Benjamin Frankel as a symphonist and it's true he is known more for this than anything else...
    bulgefrankel.jpg

    I'd like to recommend giving his symphonies a try.
    frankelsyms.jpg

  8. #35
    Senior Member CnC Bartok's Avatar
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    ^^^ See post 9, and 10 above. No Frankel didn't make my top ten, but it doesn't mean he's unrated. Some really great music in his Symphonies, and for me they have a greater sense of cohesion and "symphonic argument" than a lot of the more modern symphonists can manage.

  9. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by CnC Bartok View Post
    ^^^ See post 9, and 10 above. No Frankel didn't make my top ten, but it doesn't mean he's unrated. Some really great music in his Symphonies, and for me they have a greater sense of cohesion and "symphonic argument" than a lot of the more modern symphonists can manage.
    Agreed. Missed those earlier posts. I'm particularly fond of the 1st and 5th.

    Do you know of any other recordings of the symphonies besides the Albert set on CPO?
    Last edited by brucknerian1874; Oct-29-2020 at 12:34.

  10. #37
    Senior Member CnC Bartok's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brucknerian1874 View Post
    Agreed. Missed those earlier posts. I'm particularly fond of the 1st and 5th.

    Do you know of any other recordings of the symphonies besides the Albert set on CPO?
    The CPO set is it as far as I can see. As a company, they deserve huge credit for their cycles of "minor" (sic!) symphonies - I'd add their Sallinen, Panufnik (another couple who would make my top 20, not quite top ten!), and various Scandies as very worthy undertakings. None of the orchestras are really top notch, but none are exactly shoddy either, and so what if the conductors aren't exactly household names!

    Discogs doesn't list any more than Albert's set. I would have thought Lyrita might have made a recording or two? Seems not.
    Last edited by CnC Bartok; Oct-29-2020 at 12:53.

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  12. #38
    Senior Member Orfeo's Avatar
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    Top Ten (at least in term of importance)

    • Myaskovsky
    • Shostakovich
    • Weinberg
    • Sibelius
    • Bax
    • Vaughan Williams
    • Frankel
    • Diamond
    • Harris, Roy
    • Nielsen, Carl

    Honorable mentions (many are very close and can go either way)

    • Skulte, Adolfs
    • Ivanovs, Janis
    • Eshpai
    • Tchaikovsky, Boris
    • Peiko, Nikolay
    • Roussel
    • Schnittke
    • Atterberg
    • Stenhammar
    • Madetoja
    • Melartin, Erkki
    • Klami
    • Tubin
    • Kapp, Artur
    • Pettersson
    • Prokofiev
    • Walton
    • Lloyd, George
    • Creston
    • Still
    • Hailstork
    • Piston
    • Schuman
    • Bernstein
    • Ives
    • Hanson
    • Moyzes
    • Martinu
    • Honegger
    • Milhaud
    • Braga-Santos
    • Villa-Lobos
    • Freitas Branco, Luis de
    • Bainton
    • Lilburn, Douglas
    • Wellesz
    • Arnold, Malcolm
    • Rubbra
    Last edited by Orfeo; Oct-29-2020 at 16:38.
    David A. Hollingsworth (dholling)

    ~All good art is about something deeper than it admits.
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  14. #39
    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    Speaking of CPO, I have the symphony cycles of Panufnik, Sallinen, Wellesz, Krenek, and Humphrey Searle. And I enjoy some of the Lyrita recordings as well. Particularly Alwyn, and Rubbra. I also enjoy the Malcolm Arnold symphonies on Naxos.
    “Music makes you feel feelings. Words make you think thoughts. But a song can make you feel a thought.”

    - Yip Harburg

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    Senior Member Simplicissimus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brucknerian1874 View Post
    1. Hindemith
    2. Aho
    3. Brian
    4. Shostakovich
    5. Roussel
    6. Prokofiev
    7. Bax
    8. Schuman
    9. Frankel
    10. Myaskovsky
    Interesting about Hindemith. I don't tend to think of him as a symphonist. But come to think of it, I have recordings of four works of his that are symphonies: Symphonie Mathis der Maler, Symphonische Metamorphosen, Symphony in E-flat, and Symphony in B-flat. Love all of them. What makes him a good symphonist? How do you rate his orchestration?

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  18. #41
    Senior Member CnC Bartok's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Simplicissimus View Post
    Interesting about Hindemith. I don't tend to think of him as a symphonist. But come to think of it, I have recordings of four works of his that are symphonies: Symphonie Mathis der Maler, Symphonische Metamorphosen, Symphony in E-flat, and Symphony in B-flat. Love all of them. What makes him a good symphonist? How do you rate his orchestration?
    There's a Harmonie der Welt symphony as well!

    I don't think of Hindemith as a symphonist either, for similar intangible reasons as I don't Stravinsky. It might just come down to the fact they aren't numbered?! That said, he's a superb composer (without using the symphonist label....), and as good as his orchestration may be, it's his musical ideas that are great. Just listen to the closing fugue of Mathis der Maler, you'll get an idea of both. But as superb a work as that may be, the opera is even greater, and maybe this is "merely" an operatic suite???
    Last edited by CnC Bartok; Oct-29-2020 at 19:45.

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  20. #42
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    Mahler
    Shostakovich
    Sibelius
    Vaughan Williams
    Prokofiev
    Stravinsky
    Ives
    Nielsen

  21. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by Josquin13 View Post
    Langgaard's Symphonies are still on my list to explore, although I've heard & liked his "Music for the Spheres" (but have yet to connect to one of his symphonies--any suggestions?).
    Langgaard's symphonies are more diverse than those of any other composer I can think of (and none of them is very like the "Music of the Spheres," either!). For the early phase (late Romantic to almost Modernist), I'd suggest trying either No. 4 (Leaf Fall) or No. 6 (The Heaven-Rending). For the middle phase (where he went back to Gade, Schumann, and Wagner, and tried to hew a completely new path from them, virtually uninfluenced by anyone more recent), I'd suggest No. 9 (From Queen Dagmar's City). And for the late, defiantly individualistic phase, I'd suggest No. 16 (Sun Deluge).

    Langgaard derives ultimately from familiar late-19th-century Romanticism. Therefore, at first hearing one tends to impose on his music the values of some composer already known to one. ("Oh, this is half-baked Richard Strauss... or half-baked Sibelius... or regurgitated Schumann.") It may take repeated hearings to grasp that he's exploiting the vocabulary of his predecessors for fresh and unique, and sometimes quite challenging, purposes. (One obvious challenge: symphonies 11 and 12 are only about 6-7 minutes long each.)

    I'm not saying that his music is "good" music. I'm merely saying that there's a danger of dismissing it before it has been heard often enough to be understood.

    Of the two recorded complete cycles, Dausgaard (on Dacapo) is preferable to Stupel (on Danacord), which was recorded earlier and was forced to use incomplete texts of some symphonies. Having said which, Stupel's No. 7 is still valuable because it records a quite different (but legitimate) version of the work from Dausgaard. Stupel is available as individual discs, Dausgaard either as individual discs or as a boxed set (which can often be found at very reasonable prices).

    There are also a few quite good non-series recordings of specific symphonies.

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  23. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by Simplicissimus View Post
    Interesting about Hindemith. I don't tend to think of him as a symphonist. But come to think of it, I have recordings of four works of his that are symphonies: Symphonie Mathis der Maler, Symphonische Metamorphosen, Symphony in E-flat, and Symphony in B-flat. Love all of them. What makes him a good symphonist? How do you rate his orchestration?
    Well, I believe he is a symphonist but then I also believe Richard Strauss is a symphonist. Not being a musical scholar I wouldn't presume to rate his orchestration. What I will say is that his symphonic music is brimming with invention and intelligence and that texturally, (to my ears at least) though complex at times, it is remarkably transparent; all the voices of the orchestra are allowed to tell their individual stories in a way that ensures that the some of the parts is indeed greater than the whole.

    We are spoiled for choice in terms recordings, ranging from the composer's own interpretations to Abbado, Bernstein, Blomstedt, Boult, Karajan, Steinberg, Tortelier to name but a few. I'm pretty confident that these guys would not have bothered if there was anything sub-par about the music.
    Last edited by brucknerian1874; Oct-30-2020 at 10:32.

  24. #45
    Senior Member joen_cph's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gvn View Post
    Langgaard's symphonies are more diverse than those of any other composer I can think of (and none of them is very like the "Music of the Spheres," either!). For the early phase (late Romantic to almost Modernist), I'd suggest trying either No. 4 (Leaf Fall) or No. 6 (The Heaven-Rending). For the middle phase (where he went back to Gade, Schumann, and Wagner, and tried to hew a completely new path from them, virtually uninfluenced by anyone more recent), I'd suggest No. 9 (From Queen Dagmar's City). And for the late, defiantly individualistic phase, I'd suggest No. 16 (Sun Deluge).

    Langgaard derives ultimately from familiar late-19th-century Romanticism. Therefore, at first hearing one tends to impose on his music the values of some composer already known to one. ("Oh, this is half-baked Richard Strauss... or half-baked Sibelius... or regurgitated Schumann.") It may take repeated hearings to grasp that he's exploiting the vocabulary of his predecessors for fresh and unique, and sometimes quite challenging, purposes. (One obvious challenge: symphonies 11 and 12 are only about 6-7 minutes long each.)

    I'm not saying that his music is "good" music. I'm merely saying that there's a danger of dismissing it before it has been heard often enough to be understood.

    Of the two recorded complete cycles, Dausgaard (on Dacapo) is preferable to Stupel (on Danacord), which was recorded earlier and was forced to use incomplete texts of some symphonies. Having said which, Stupel's No. 7 is still valuable because it records a quite different (but legitimate) version of the work from Dausgaard. Stupel is available as individual discs, Dausgaard either as individual discs or as a boxed set (which can often be found at very reasonable prices).

    There are also a few quite good non-series recordings of specific symphonies.
    IMO, Nørgård's for instance are stylistically more diverse, but there are only 8 by him. Nos 7+8 are from the 2000s. Hopes for a 9th Symphony are diminishing, given the composers age and his little current activity.

    As regards Stupel versus Dausgaard, I prefer Stupel in at least nos.5 and 10, maybe in no.4 too. But no.4 is a crowded field, with a good, poetic one by Frandsen too, and a very fast one by N. Järvi.

    Quote Originally Posted by Heck148 View Post
    Hanson deserves mention...he's certainly equal to, or greater than some of those already mentioned.
    I have an old classical music encyclopedia describing Hanson as of less relevance for the international repertoire, and I tend to agree.
    Last edited by joen_cph; Oct-30-2020 at 13:43.

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