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Thread: Symphonies that "include everything"

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    Default Symphonies that "include everything"

    “No! A symphony should be like the world—it should include everything!” said Mahler to Sibelius.

    Which individual symphonies really do “include everything” (or at least come closest to doing so)? Which, for instance, encompass the full range of emotions from unmitigated joy to unmitigated sorrow? (unlike, e.g., Hovhaness, in whose world sorrow is rare & always mitigated, or Penderecki, in whose world joy is rare & always mitigated). Which encompass on equal terms the utterly tangible/material and the utterly intangible/mysterious?

    My own short list:

    1. Beethoven: probably all of Nos. 3–9 (but not 1 or 2). Even, e.g., the Pastoral: it appears lightweight, yet it does a remarkably good job of touching all the bases.

    2. Berlioz: at least the Symphonie fantastique.

    3. Mahler: most, but perhaps not all (not, e.g., No. 7, I think).

    4. Messiaen: the Turangalîla-symphonie would certainly qualify, IF it’s really a symphony at all (which is rather doubtful). And IF so, then also Des Canyons aux étoiles and Éclairs sur l’au-delà (whether or not Messiaen formally called them symphonies, they undoubtedly belong to the same genre as the Turangalîla).

    Anyone else? Not, I would say, Haydn (the whole body of his symphonies might perhaps “include everything,” but no one of them individually does). Not Mozart or Schubert or Brahms or even Bruckner (his universe consists entirely of cathedrals without a single ordinary house or shop or theatre). Nor Mahler’s greatest heir, Shostakovich (his world sometimes contains laughter and high spirits, but never any joy). But others might argue against me about these!

    And does any composer now (or recently) active “include everything” in any symphony? If so, which? (What about MacMillan’s Fifth, for instance? I haven’t heard it; am merely responding to descriptions of it.)

    NOTE that these are questions about GENRE, not quality. I’m not asking for a list of favorite symphonies or “great” symphonies. (I myself listen to Sibelius at least as often as Mahler!)

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    Junior Member Posauner's Avatar
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    Tchaikovsky 6 is the first one that came to my mind. I think it does the most abrupt change of gears from the joyful march of the third movement into the heart-rending opening of the finale.

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    Dvořák might perhaps also be considered. Even the New World: like the Pastoral, it doesn't make any grand statements, but it gives the impression of encompassing a remarkably diverse range of experiences. (Perhaps even more than Tchaikovsky. Tchaikovsky, like Bernstein, sometimes gives me the impression of living only at the extremes of experience, with nothing much in between.)

    Among recent symphonists, what about Rautavaara??

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    George LLoyd's 11th from 1985

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    Nielsen's 2nd Symphony The Four Temperaments. I think it covers from deep sadness to sheer exhilaration.

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    Even Nielsen's symphonies 4-6 have a wide range of emotions as well.

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    Yes. I've never previously noticed any similarity between them, but I do think Mahler would have recognized Nielsen as a kindred spirit.

    Quote Originally Posted by Becca View Post
    George LLoyd's 11th from 1985
    Telepathy. Sheer telepathy. I was just thinking exactly the same thing. And (as with Nielsen) other Lloyd symphonies might also be cited to a greater or lesser extent: the 4th, the 7th, and definitely the Symphonic Mass.

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    Mahler #3 contains a whole heck of a lot. So much that when I listen I sometimes treat the first movement as its own piece.

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    Nicholas Maw's "Odyssey", although not called a symphony, may fit the bill of trying to "include everything". Some professional critics even criticized it for trying to include too much. Personally I find the changes in mood and style more subtle than contrasting, although undoubtedly wide in its range of emotions.

    Rautavaara's 6th, 7th and 8th should also fit the bill, ranging from tranquillity to outright horror and a decent amount of things in between.

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    Bloch's Symphony in C sharp minor. Exuberant, tragically sad, profound dignity - an emotional roller coaster, scored in Mahler's manner that far, far too people have ever heard. A deeply humane symphony.2570680.jpg

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    Johnny Reinhard edited version of Charles Ives Universe Symphony.


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    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?
    Last edited by Helgi; Nov-24-2020 at 12:37.

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    Check out Von Hausegger's Nature Symphony. Big range in both sound and emotions. Very lush orchestration. Late romantic and tonally complex.
    It takes a while but I've really come to love this obscure piece even though there are few memorable themes. It has these wonderful, fleeting moments of beauty. The 2nd movement is absolutely tremendous. And the ending is rather spectacular as well. It's quite simply a massive symphony, an entire world indeed.
    Last edited by DeepR; Nov-24-2020 at 17:43.

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    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).
    Bruckner's Eighth.
    Last edited by Orfeo; Nov-24-2020 at 22:52.
    David A. Hollingsworth (dholling)

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

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    The gargantuan "Gothic" symphony, the first symphony by the fascinating English composer Havergal Brian ( 1876-1972 ) is so vast and all encompassing as to bend your mind . And it lasts about one hour and 40 minutes .
    Scored for an even larger orchestra than Schoenberg's Gurrelieder , multiple choruses, children's chorus , vocal soloists , four antiphonal brass bands etc
    It consists of two parts ; a purely orchestral one leading to a setting of the Te Deum . The symphony is meant to evoke thevastness of Europe's mighty Gothic cathedrals , and takes repeated hearings to grasp .
    Because of the vast forces required and the enormous space required for them, there have been only about six ! Live performances so far , and only one studio recording ,on the Naxis label and recorded in of all places, Bratislava, capitol of Slovakia ,conducted by Slovak conductor Ondrej Lenard with the combined forces of the Slovak Philharmonic and Slovak radio orchestra and approximately half the population of Bratislava .
    The most recent recording is a live London recording from Albert Hall with Martyn Brabbins , the BBC symphony and various London choruses . An earlier London performance with Sir Adrian Boult conducting has also been available . You can hear both the Slovak and Boult recordings on youtube .
    It's certainly not an easy listening experience but well worth the effort ! Brian's "Gothic " symphony is a work which is not easy to grasp even after repeated hearings . The Boult recording actually comes with the score , which is not easy to read even if you can read music well !

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