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

  1. #46
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    Although I still have a lot of music to explore tbh , my top 5 are

    Shostakovich
    Sibelius
    Prokofiev
    Nielsen
    Stravinsky

  2. #47
    Senior Member flamencosketches's Avatar
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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.
    That's funny; for me, Sibelius is nothing but forward momentum and drive, most obviously in the 5th and 7th symphonies (less so in the 4th).

    I don't think I could name 10, but some of the big names for me in the 20th century symphony are Mahler, Sibelius & Shostakovich (of course) plus Malcolm Arnold. I have yet to get into any of the big American symphonists like Schuman, Copland, Creston etc.

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  4. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by HerbertNorman View Post
    Although I still have a lot of music to explore tbh , my top 5 are

    Shostakovich
    Sibelius
    Prokofiev
    Nielsen
    Stravinsky
    That's a pretty substantial and valid list!!

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  6. #49
    Senior Member Torkelburger's Avatar
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    Yes, Hindemith and Stravinsky are both valid symphonists. Just because the pieces in question are not numbered in a particular order does not mean their symphonies are not proper symphonies. The four symphonies of Stravinsky, in fact, were all written in his neo-classical period and style and therefore satisfy the symphonic model in both content and form. He even went as far as to have the first movements of the Symphony in C and the Symphony in E flat in sonata form, a scherzo movement in Sym in Eb as well as the rondo form for its final movement.

    And even on this very website, we listened to Hindemith’s Symphony in E flat as part of the Saturday Symphony series in February of 2018. Hindemith’s symphonies are without question some of the finest ever written.

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  8. #50
    Senior Member Torkelburger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heck148 View Post
    For English composers of symphonies:
    Walton and Tippett should be mentioned..
    Yes, I'm glad you singled out Walton. It's an interesting case because he only wrote 2 symphonies total, so why rate him so highly? I think one reason is because we should value quality over quantity. The other reason is because the second symphony's reputation is so grossly underrated, it needs to be recognized for the masterpiece that it is. Everyone recognizes the first symphony as a masterpiece in the genre and the second symphony is simply forgotten. But IMO the second is just as good as the first. It is quite remarkable. I don't see too many people singing its praises on this forum (except me) but I don't think too many people have been exposed to it.
    Last edited by Torkelburger; Oct-30-2020 at 15:41.

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  10. #51
    Senior Member Torkelburger'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?
    It's interesting. I believe Bernstein did a lecture (Young People's Concert?) on "What Makes Music Symphonic?" where he analyzed the first movement of Brahms' Fourth Symphony. He argued the case that it is not the instrumentation (writing for a symphony orchestra) that makes it "symphonic" but rather that the composer develops the music in ever-changing ways so as to preserve its nature but also continue to introduce novelty at the same time, and to sort of have different things going on at the same time, etc.

    Well, he also did a lecture on Hindemith I watched many years ago where he kind of did the same thing with the Mathis der Maler Symphony (the whole lecture wasn't about that, though) and he showed how the musical elements were developed and altered in new musical ways--in a modern context, but it's the same idea as the Brahms' analysis. So one could say Hindemith is a good symphonist in the same ways that Brahms is a good symphonist, at least in that one respect.
    Last edited by Torkelburger; Oct-30-2020 at 15:55.

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  12. #52
    Senior Member joen_cph's Avatar
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    Harmonie der Welt has an openly sublime, very dramatic character, perhaps differing it a bit from Hindemith's reputation for writing at times in a somewhat dry, neoclassical style (in reality, there are however other works that are sprawling, humorous, or dark too).

    The Mravinsky recording captures this very well.
    Last edited by joen_cph; Oct-30-2020 at 16:08.

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  14. #53
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    Quote Originally Posted by joen_cph View Post
    I have an old classical music encyclopedia describing Hanson as of less relevance for the international repertoire, and I tend to agree.
    I don't agree. Hanson composed some very fine symphonies - #s 1 and 3, for sure.

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  16. #54
    Senior Member Torkelburger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heck148 View Post
    I don't agree. Hanson composed some very fine symphonies - #s 1 and 3, for sure.
    They are staples of the Neo-Romantic style and often referred to as prime examples of it.

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  18. #55
    Senior Member tdc's Avatar
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    There are many that I like, but my favorites in this category by a good margin are Ives and Prokofiev.

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  20. #56
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    Quote Originally Posted by joen_cph View Post
    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.
    Agreed. On reflection, actually a lot of composers' symphonies are more stylistically diverse than Langgaard's (Stravinsky is a particularly glaring example!). And the Langgaard Problem is a bit like the Bruckner Problem. The conductor who has the better text (Dausgaard) doesn't always give the better performance, and the best performances of all sometimes aren't in complete sets.

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  22. #57
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    Quote Originally Posted by Torkelburger View Post
    Yes, I'm glad you singled out Walton. It's an interesting case because he only wrote 2 symphonies total, so why rate him so highly? I think one reason is because we should value quality over quantity. The other reason is because the second symphony's reputation is so grossly underrated, it needs to be recognized for the masterpiece that it is. Everyone recognizes the first symphony as a masterpiece in the genre and the second symphony is simply forgotten. But IMO the second is just as good as the first. It is quite remarkable. I don't see too many people singing its praises on this forum (except me) but I don't think too many people have been exposed to it.
    Another fan of Walton here, and I agree with you about the greatness of the 2nd Symphony. A very exciting work with a splendid orchestration. Some days I prefer the 2nd over the 1st, but I love both with no reservations.

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  24. #58
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    Now I think I should have added William Schuman to my list and perhaps leave Langgaard out (I love many of his symphonies, though). In terms of importance and originality Schuman was a very striking composer. Just listened again his 10th Symphony and oh my goodness, this is superb stuff. Schuman gets to conjure up some intriguing atmospheres mixed with distinctive rhythms, often stemming from American music.

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    Has anyone mentioned Nikolai Myaskovsky who composed 27 symphonies, all within the the 20th century? Quite revered by Shostakovich, Prokofiev, and Mstislav Rostropovich: Myaskovsky's have not been much recorded by American conductors and orchestras; and I don't even know if anyone anywhere has recorded Myaskovsky's complete symphonic cycle. I haven't listened to enough Myaskovsky to make an informed assessment.

    What say you?

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  28. #60
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coach G View Post
    Has anyone mentioned Nikolai Myaskovsky who composed 27 symphonies, all within the the 20th century? Quite revered by Shostakovich, Prokofiev, and Mstislav Rostropovich: Myaskovsky's have not been much recorded by American conductors and orchestras; and I don't even know if anyone anywhere has recorded Myaskovsky's complete symphonic cycle. I haven't listened to enough Myaskovsky to make an informed assessment.

    What say you?
    See Post #18. He made it under the wire as my number 10. Evgeny Svetlanov has recorded a complete cycle.
    myask1-27.jpg
    My personal favourites at the moment are are 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 9, 12, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20, 22, 26, 27. That's just based on my first impressions. I really need to give them all another listen.
    Last edited by brucknerian1874; Oct-31-2020 at 12:41.

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