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Thread: Symphonies that "include everything"

  1. #16
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    For that matter, there's Mendelssohn's Second (the Lobgesang). I tend to think of Mendelssohn as a composer with a relatively narrow emotional range (like Spohr), but listening again to the Lobgesang, I don't think there are too many facets of human experience that aren't included in it. When I consider it from that perspective, for the first time I begin to understand why so many people in Mendelssohn's own day thought it his greatest and most innovative achievement.

    In fact, this thread is making me realize that my concept of "including everything" is itself insufficiently all-inclusive -- it needs to be broadened!

    Also, that it's an awfully long time since I last listened to some of these things. I fear it may be 20+ years since I last heard Brian's Gothic--not even sure where in the house I've filed it. And what about Bloch? Shameful, shameful.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Orfeo View Post
    Myaskovsky's Sixth Symphony comes to mind.
    Glazunov's Eighth is worth thinking about.
    Rebikov's Esclavage et Liberte for piano.
    Bax's Third or Sixth Symphony (perhaps Seventh for that matter).
    I just played a little concert consisting of (i) Myaskovsky's 24th cond. Svetlanov (not his 6th, because I realized that I know the 6th well but tend to neglect the later stuff), (ii) Bax's Sixth cond. Del Mar, (iii) Glazunov's Eighth cond. Serebrier.

    I found this thread opened new perspectives on the first two.

    I was astonished at the richness & diversity of material in Myaskovsky's 24th (even though it's much shorter than his 6th). I've always thought of Myaskovsky as a lesser Shostakovich (paler, lower-key, more subdued). But I now found myself wondering if Shostakovich actually has the narrower emotional range of the two. I don't mean to suggest that Shostakovich is the "lesser" composer--merely that he focusses more intensely on a precisely defined, narrow range of emotions, whereas Myaskovsky probes more broadly and explores a far greater diversity of materials. I think I've been guilty of assuming that M had basically the same goals as S but failed to deliver them as effectively, whereas in reality M had quite different (and perhaps more questingly Mahlerian) goals.

    Listening to Bax from this standpoint was also enlightening. I play Bax often but don't fully understand him, don't feel that I quite see his symphonies "in focus." Often he seems to wander about all over the place. But perhaps that's exactly the point. Instead of asking for "focus," perhaps I should let myself drift with the current as it roams broadly over the whole universe and refuses to tidy itself into neat little boxes.

    Glazunov, on this occasion, disappointed me--surprisingly, because temperamentally I feel more rapport with his music than with either M's or B's. I think maybe it was a mistake playing him after the others, but also I think I chose the wrong recording--if I wanted to listen for all-inclusiveness, I should have chosen the rough-edged Rozhdestvensky rather than the sleek, suave Serebrier.

    Quote Originally Posted by Orfeo View Post
    Bruckner's Eighth.
    Does anyone know what Mahler thought of Bruckner's symphonies? Obviously he used them as a springboard, but did he consider himself (e.g.) as following in Bruckner's steps, or as doing what Bruckner ought to have done but didn't? (I can easily imagine him taking either view, or even both!)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Helgi View Post
    You mentioned Sibelius, and to me (at least some of) his symphonies seem to contain the entire universe without including everything like Mahler's.

    Would it be too much to say that about Sibelius' 7th?
    I'm already starting to think two things.

    (i) Sibelius reported their famous conversation as if he & Mahler were polar opposites: he wanted a symphony to be totally unified, integrated, internally coherent, whereas Mahler wanted to bring in as many disparate things as possible. But were they really opposites? Couldn't Sibelius have replied, "But my dear Mahler, my symphonies are like the world, they do include everything--because, fundamentally, everything in the universe is unified. Superficially the trumpet and the piccolo and the bass viol may seem very different, but fundamentally they are woven out of the same elementary particles and they emit the same stuff--sound waves. Everything in the universe has far more kinship than disparity!"

    (ii) It's evident from Sibelius's testimony that Mahler's remark stuck deep in his mind. Did it perhaps influence the course of his later music--so that, without in any way giving up his search for total unification, total integration, total monothematicism, he strove to make it a more all-inclusive unification, integration, monothematicism? Think of the 5th, the 6th, the 7th. And then think of Tapiola, which is in so many ways the culmination of his method, the closest thing we'll ever get to Sibelius's 8th. Think how many different moods & colors are embraced in its compact monothematicism!

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    Beethoven: 9
    Mahler: almost all
    Shostakovich: 5
    Tchaikovsky: 5 and 6

    I also think that Sibelius adopted a more "Mahlerian approach" in his later symphonies. My personal favorite from him might be the deeply melancholic number 4.

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    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    Alfred Schnittke No.1
    “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 SONNET CLV's Avatar
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    Here's a link to a standard American symphony (!!!) that, when in full performance, includes even the kitchen sink:


    https://american-standard.kitchen-fa...pull-down.html

    Can't say I ever heard it, though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gvn View Post
    Does anyone know what Mahler thought of Bruckner's symphonies? Obviously he used them as a springboard, but did he consider himself (e.g.) as following in Bruckner's steps, or as doing what Bruckner ought to have done but didn't? (I can easily imagine him taking either view, or even both!)
    They had a bit of a weird relationship. Bruckner did have Mahler do the piano transcription of his Third Symphony (I'm pretty sure it was that one, not checking myself) while he was a student. Mahler thought highly of him but turned a very critical eye towards his work. When Mahler conducted Bruckner he made many many changes to the score, including some pretty sweeping architectural changes, such as in the Fourth. Funnily when Mahler wrote his Fifth he cited Bruckner as his predecessor for the triumphal chorale passages, which Alma took a lot of umbrage with, since she saw it as untrue to Mahler's character. There's an interesting article by Benjamin Korstvedt from a few years ago where he argues Mahler's revisions of Bruckner reveal what Harold Bloom would have called the "anxiety of influence." Mahler seemed to place himself as a successor to Bruckner when it suited him but was quick to distance himself on other occasions.

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    I suspect it's easier to write a massive Mahlerian work and say it includes everything than to write a more concentrated Sibelian work in which everything has been distilled. Sibelius 7th is a case in point. I think it contains more of human perception than any Mahler symphony.

    An example of both in a single composer: Vaughan-Williams first version of the London Symphony was a more sprawling work than we know today. His Sea Symphony was as all encompassing as Whitman's poetry. But he seems to have moved from the Mahlerian to the Sibelian model. I think RVW's 6th and 9th are distilled metaphysical experiences.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gvn View Post
    I just played a little concert consisting of (i) Myaskovsky's 24th cond. Svetlanov (not his 6th, because I realized that I know the 6th well but tend to neglect the later stuff), (ii) Bax's Sixth cond. Del Mar, (iii) Glazunov's Eighth cond. Serebrier.

    I found this thread opened new perspectives on the first two.

    I was astonished at the richness & diversity of material in Myaskovsky's 24th (even though it's much shorter than his 6th). I've always thought of Myaskovsky as a lesser Shostakovich (paler, lower-key, more subdued). But I now found myself wondering if Shostakovich actually has the narrower emotional range of the two. I don't mean to suggest that Shostakovich is the "lesser" composer--merely that he focusses more intensely on a precisely defined, narrow range of emotions, whereas Myaskovsky probes more broadly and explores a far greater diversity of materials. I think I've been guilty of assuming that M had basically the same goals as S but failed to deliver them as effectively, whereas in reality M had quite different (and perhaps more questingly Mahlerian) goals.

    Listening to Bax from this standpoint was also enlightening. I play Bax often but don't fully understand him, don't feel that I quite see his symphonies "in focus." Often he seems to wander about all over the place. But perhaps that's exactly the point. Instead of asking for "focus," perhaps I should let myself drift with the current as it roams broadly over the whole universe and refuses to tidy itself into neat little boxes.

    Glazunov, on this occasion, disappointed me--surprisingly, because temperamentally I feel more rapport with his music than with either M's or B's. I think maybe it was a mistake playing him after the others, but also I think I chose the wrong recording--if I wanted to listen for all-inclusiveness, I should have chosen the rough-edged Rozhdestvensky rather than the sleek, suave Serebrier.



    Does anyone know what Mahler thought of Bruckner's symphonies? Obviously he used them as a springboard, but did he consider himself (e.g.) as following in Bruckner's steps, or as doing what Bruckner ought to have done but didn't? (I can easily imagine him taking either view, or even both!)

    • After listening to most of Myaskovsky's music, I must conclude that its emotional range is not a bit narrower than Shostakovich's. Just vastly different personalities.
    • Bax, and Glazunov for that matter, reveal their secrets slowly, but very keen structurally. I don't find Bax's music as wandering about all over the place, but it does have a very wide range of emotions to offer.
    • Mahler did refer Bruckner as half-god, half simpleton. He deeply admired Bruckner during his younger years, but kind of outgrew him as he was getting older.
    David A. Hollingsworth (dholling)

    ~All good art is about something deeper than it admits.
    Roger Ebert

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  18. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Orfeo View Post
    After listening to most of Myaskovsky's music, I must conclude that its emotional range is not a bit narrower than Shostakovich's. Just vastly different personalities.
    Yes, I've been too inclined to group them together. Since writing my previous post, I've listened to Myaskovsky's 21st-27th in sequence over 3 evenings, and that has strengthened my impression of very rich emotional diversity in his work.

    Quote Originally Posted by Orfeo View Post
    Bax, and Glazunov for that matter, reveal their secrets slowly, but very keen structurally. I don't find Bax's music as wandering about all over the place, but it does have a very wide range of emotions to offer.
    I'm quite sure that my feeling about Bax "wandering" must be fundamentally wrong somewhere. When I sit down and examine his work closely, one of the things that strikes me is that there's actually a very highly organized structural core embedded inside every one of his symphonies. There's at least as much head (and backbone!) in them as heart.
    Last edited by gvn; Yesterday at 07:30.

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    Quote Originally Posted by starthrower View Post
    Alfred Schnittke No.1
    Are there symphonists currently active who aim to "include everything" (in either the massive Mahlerian fashion or the distilled Sibelian fashion)? Lots of inventive things seem to be happening in that field, especially in Baltic/Nordic/Eastern European countries.
    Last edited by gvn; Yesterday at 07:46.

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