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The Top 10 Greatest Symphonies in Classical Music (Part 2 of 2)

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Disclaimer: There is nothing 'Official' about these lists. It is only subjective opinion.. The blog post was written with fun in mind.

This is the continuation of the previous post..

6. Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C minor


The Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67, was written by Ludwig van Beethoven in 1804–08. This symphony is one of the most popular and best-known compositions in all of classical music, and one of the most often played symphonies.[1] It comprises four movements: an opening sonata, an andante, and a fast scherzo which leads attacca to the finale. First performed in Vienna's Theater an der Wien in 1808, the work achieved its prodigious reputation soon afterwards. E. T. A. Hoffmann described the symphony as "one of the most important works of the time".

The symphony, and the four-note opening motif in particular, are well known worldwide, with the motif appearing frequently in popular culture, from disco to rock and roll, to appearances in film and television.

7. Schubert: Symphony No. 9 in C major “The Great”


The Symphony No. 9 in C major, D. 944, known as the Great (published in 1840 as “Symphony No. 7 in C Major” and now renumbered as Symphony No. 8[1]), is the final symphony completed by Franz Schubert. Nicknamed The Great C major originally to distinguish it from his Symphony No. 6, the Little C major,[2][3] the subtitle is usually now taken as a reference to the symphony's majesty. A typical performance takes around 55 minutes.

Often considered Schubert’s finest piece for orchestra, the Great C-Major Symphony is also one of the composer’s most innovative pieces. Thematic development in the style of Beethoven is still present in the work, but Schubert puts far more emphasis on melody, which one might expect from the composer of some six hundred lieder. In fact, this new style prompted Schumann to pursue his own symphonic ambitions. The symphony is scored for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets in A and C, 2 bassoons, 2 horns in C, 2 trumpets in A and C, 3 trombones, timpani, and strings. Beethoven had always used the trombone as an effect, and therefore very sparingly, or, in the case of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, also to double the alto, tenor, and bass parts of the chorus as was common in sacred music and opera at the time. However, in both Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony and the Ninth Symphony, trombones are liberated from these roles and have far more substantial parts.

8. Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 in B minor “Pathetique”


Tchaikovsky composed this music between February and August 1893, and conducted the first performance on October 28 of that year in St. Petersburg. Already in 1890 Tchaikovsky had written to his patroness of 13 years, Nadezhda von Meck, about a possible "program symphony." By 1893 he was ready to follow through on the idea, dedicated to his nephew Vladimir Davidov, the "Bobyk" (or "Bob") of many diary-entries and letters during the 1880s. After a successful premiere, however, he was not satisfied with Program Symphony (No. 6) on the title page. Several days later Modest suggested "patetichesky," which in Russian means "1, enthusiastic, passionate; 2, emotional; and 3, bombastic" (rather than "pathetic" or "arousing pity," as in English). Pyotr Il'yich was delighted by the suggestion: "Excellent, Modya, bravo, patetichesky!" He wrote this onto the score, and sent it the same day to his publisher, Jurgenson. Two days later, however, he had qualms and asked Jurgenson to suppress subtitles -- to issue the work simply as Symphony No. 6, dedicated to Bobyk. One week later, he was dead. As for Jurgenson, he could not resist the opportunity in 1893 to publish No. 6, in elegant Lingua Franca, as Symphonie pathétique. The sobriquet has stuck ever since.

During the work's incubation Tchaikovsky was in rare good spirits, pleased with his boldness and fluency, especially in the trailblazing finale, a drawn-out Adagio of funereal character. Where others still wrote conventional slow movements, he hit on the idea of "a limping waltz" in 5/4 time. And he made the scherzo a march that builds to such a pitch of excitement that audiences ever since, everywhere, applaud at the end.

9. Mahler: Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor


The Symphony No. 5 by Gustav Mahler was composed in 1901 and 1902, mostly during the summer months at Mahler's cottage at Maiernigg. Among its most distinctive features are the funereal trumpet solo that opens the work and the frequently performed Adagietto.

The musical canvas and emotional scope of the work, which lasts over an hour, are huge. After its premiere, Mahler is reported to have said, “Nobody understood it. I wish I could conduct the first performance fifty years after my death.” Conductor Herbert von Karajan said that when one hears Mahler's Fifth, “you forget that time has passed. A great performance of the Fifth is a transforming experience. The fantastic finale almost forces you to hold your breath.”

10. Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 in F major "Pastorale"


Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68, also known as the Pastoral Symphony (German Pastoral-Sinfonie), is a symphony composed by Ludwig van Beethoven, and was completed in 1808. One of Beethoven's few works containing explicitly programmatic content, the symphony was first performed in the Theater an der Wien on 22 December 1808 in a four hour concert called the Musikalische Akademie.

For roughly 175 years, the music appreciation racket has told us that Beethoven composed symphonies in contrasting odd-even pairs after 1803, none more startling than the heaven-storming Fifth and bucolic Sixth. Originally, however, he assigned the designation of "No. 5" to the Pastoral for their shared debut on surely the most historic night in Western music, December 22, 1808. Beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the unheated Theater an der Wien, he premiered both symphonies, the Fourth Piano Concerto, "Choral" Fantasy, "Ah! perfido!" (a concert aria from 1796), and introduced a Viennese audience to excerpts from the C major Mass, an Esterházy commission of 1807 that Prince Nicolaus II disliked when he heard it.

Beethoven began making specific notes for a "Sinfonia pastorale" in 1806, but didn't complete the work until 1808, in the village of Heiligenstadt northwest of Vienna. If this had been an unlikely hatchery in 1807 for the fist-brandishing Fifth Symphony, it perfectly suited -- as he noted in his sketchbook -- "recollections of country life...more the expression of feeling than of painting" in his ensuing woodwind-drenched symphony (although violins get first crack at nine of its 12 significant themes).


Symphony No. 40 in G minor – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Symphony No. 8 in B minor "Unfinished" – Franz Schubert

Symphonie Fantastique – Hector Berlioz

Symphony No. 2 in C minor "Resurrection" – Gustav Mahler

Symphony No. 7 in E major "Lyric" – Anton Bruckner

Symphony No. 9 in D major – Gustav Mahler

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Updated Apr-14-2011 at 11:42 by peeyaj

Classical Music , Composers


  1. peeyaj's Avatar
    I hope people will not burn me in a stake .. :P
  2. peeyaj's Avatar
    There's nothing official to the list.. It's only subjective opinion..
    Updated Apr-14-2011 at 11:43 by peeyaj
  3. Polednice's Avatar
    *puts away a pitch-fork after careful consideration*

    No, no, it's a sound list - there are just so many symphonies to choose from, that a top-10 will inevitably rile [i]everyone[/i], but it still makes for a good read! :D
  4. HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
    Reads like a school assignment.

    Does Philippines have a symphony orchestra? Whart does it play? What is its history?
  5. peeyaj's Avatar

    There is, the ''Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra'' which plays Philippine folk music and some standard repertoire. Unfortunately, appreciation of classical music is non-existant in the country, and the orchestra is seen as aristrocratic..

    The Philippine Philharmonic was founded in 1973. If you are interested, you can read more here:

    Like I said in the disclaimer, the list was written for fun.