Favorite Symphonies Quiz


Pick your favorite composer for each symphony. You can’t use a composer more than once.

Here are my answers (at least today’s answers):
Symphony No. 1: Copland
Symphony No. 2: Hanson
Symphony No. 3: Saint-Saëns
Symphony No. 4: Bruckner
Symphony No. 5: Shostakovich
Symphony No. 6: Tchaikovsky
Symphony No. 7: Sibelius
Symphony No. 8: Mahler
Symphony No. 9: Beethoven

What are your picks? I’m looking forward to learning something.
9e7ba07d 49a7 4363 a6bc 1ea80b28ce42Ag insider logo xs@2xphomchick
I’ll start with #39 -- Mozart
It doesn’t help that I’ve got a weakness for Fourths -- Brahms, Mahler, Tchaikovsky.
Fifths give me fits, too.
Beethoven 9th Furtwangler
Sibelius 2nd
Alan Hovaness 22: symphony of light




Nice.  I'm having trouble w/ 1, so I'll just toss in Dmitri S. (I don't know that symphony at all, but I'm sure it's fine).  Took some shuffling (e.g., the obvious Gorecki 3 changed to 4, which if you haven't heard it ROCKS!), moving Mahler and Brahms etc.  Of course the best list would include Mahler in all positions except 8!

1. Shostakovich
2. Brahms
3. Mahler
4. Gorecki
5. Schubert
6. Haydn
7. Beethoven
8. Bruckner
9. Dvorak
jdane -- I dig your choices.  Love the Schubert Fifth.  I play some of those tunes on my fiddle.  It's better than whistling 'em!  The adagio in the Bruckner Eighth has some of the most powerful moments in all of music.  The Mahler Third is a vast wonderland.  Every choral group in the land should sing "Es sungen drei Engel" at least once each Christmas.
This is fun and a bit of a challenge.   I'm going with:
1. Brahms
2. Sibelius
3. Mahler
4. Shostakovich
5. Mendelssohn
6. Tchaikovski
7. Beethoven
8. Schubert
9. Bruckner

This arrangement permitted me to choose my favorite classical and post classical symphony composers, although it necessitated exclusion of Dvorak.  It permitted me to select my favorite symphonies of Brahms, Sibelius, Mahler, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovski (Manfred is close to 6),  Beethoven, and Schubert. Selecting Shostakovich at 4 is a stretch, but the wonderful account by Mariss Jansons allows me to slot Shostakovich here.  If you haven't heard Janson's 4th, you haven't heard the 4th.  In truth,  Babi Yar would be my favorite, but you stopped at 9, so Dmitri had to go somewhere.  I'd probably call #9 Bruckner's best, so this isn't much of a stretch.  If I go HvK Bruckner, its #9, If I go Eugen Jochim, probably 6 or 8,   
@jdane: I too would have picked Mahler for all positions in the list if it were allowed. But you omit Mahler’s Eighth? The night in 2009 that I spent listening to the San Francisco Symphony and Chorus perform Mahler’s Eighth was one of the most memorable evenings I have ever spent at a concert.

https://youtu.be/MAjmM7lcb1c
PC--  I realize I'm in the minority on M8.  I've never liked it, and I only heard it live once.  LAPhil (forget who was conducting--prob. Dudamel during one of the Mahler cycles here) in the cavernous Shrine, easily the worst music venue in the world.  Now I love both the LAPhil and the LAChorale, but all that went through my mind the entire night was PLEASE! Get on with The Eternal Feminine so we can get the f. out of here!   (And meanwhile, let me put in another plug for the Gorecki 4th!)
1. Elgar
2. Mahler
3. Scriabin
4. Beethoven
5. Sibelius
6. Tchaikovsky
7. Atterberg
8. Dvorak
9. Bruckner
+1 phomchick on all Mahler
The LB cycle.
Or all of Cookie's recordings of Tilson Thomas with the SFS
The curse of the 9 symphonies. 


Curse? You mean its not just pivoted tone arms? Symphonies are cursed too???! Dang. I know audiophiles believe in a lot of crazy stuff but come on, man!
"Or all of Cookie’s recordings of Tilson Thomas with the SFS"

Was Cookie Marenco involved with the SF Media series of recordings with the SF Symphony? I know the recordings are/were? available on the Blue Coast Music website for purchase and download, but I didn’t know that Cookie was involved in the production.
It's the composers who were cursed to complete only 9 symphonies in their lifetime. At least that's what Bruckner and Mahler believed.
Cool.  Several choices here I've never heard or even heard OF.  Working now to correct that.  (I'm giving myself extra points if I actually own a recording of one of these.).    Atterberg??!!   And I thought Scriabin never moved from the piano bench.
1 Kalinnikov
2 Sibelius
3 Copland
4 Nielsen
5 Bax
6 Tchaikovsky
7 Mahler
8 Shostakovitch
9 Bruckner

I’m not well versed in classical enough to complete all nine but:
3. Saint-Saens
4. Brahms
5. Mahler
9. Beethoven

And yes, it is hard to leave out Dvorak’s 9th
Aha!  Nielsen make a well-deserved appearance (but I'd pick his third).
Agreed.. that's my preferred Nielsen symphony as well but it's difficult for me to place it over the Copeland third.
Why do we stop at 9?  That is unfair to someone like Haydn, or Khovahness, or even Leif Segerstram.  So I’ll do 10-15.
10-Mahler, in the Deryck  Cooke completion.
11. C.P.E. Bach Wq182
12. Haydn
13. Mozart
14. Weinberg 
15. Shostakovich 
How about we keep it at nine symphonies, but open it up to the last digit only? Thus #2, #72, and #102 would all be allowed picks for #2. That gives you more symphonies to choose from, but you still have make choices to come with a list of nine. 
Other than Haydn, how many other composers made it past Mozart's 41?
Very few bettered Mozart. It may only be Haydn (104) and Hovhaness (67).
I think I’m going to try making a list with my mod 10 numbering suggestion. It’s not going to be much different because other than Mozart, Haydn, and Hovhaness, I can’t think of many composers that will be added.

And.... it just occurred to me that we have to pick ten symphonies to allow numbers ending in zero. Make it so!
1: Mahler
2: Mahler
3: Mahler
4: Tchaikovsky
5: Mahler
6: Mahler
7: Mahler
8: Bruckner
9: Mahler

i don’t care about the use a composer more than once rule. Who can really pick their favorite Mahler? It’s usually either 2,3,5,6,9 - whichever I happened to have listened to or performed most recently. 
‘Very few bettered Mozart. ‘
Um, not to me. Mozart symphonies are a snooze. His operas slightly better. I would think most boring classical music listeners would contend Beethoven perfected the symphony. Regardless, I find them boring, especially to perform. Listen to Haydn 104 then Tchaikovsky 4, and I just can’t see how anyone who has any ability to emote would pick Haydn. 
I think the composer's time in history and life circumstances are significant.  I love Haydn, his works are playful and fun (and less prissy than Mozart) but not about emotion any more than Baroque works are.  

Tchaikovsky (like Mahler) certainly has emotional content which I guess is why they are popular.  Other characteristics speak more to others (including me) and Beethoven, Bruckner, Sibelius and Hovaness have other strengths.


Very hard to compose a list given this limitation.  Had to repeat. Leaves a good many great symphonies out. Not really fair.

1.Brahms
2. Rachmaninoff 
3. Beethoven
4. Schumann
5. Prokofiev 
6. Tchaikovsky 
7. Beethoven
8. Shostakovich 
9. Mahler
“Very hard to compose a list given this limitation.  Had to repeat. Leaves a good many great symphonies out. Not really fair.”

If you are unhappy about leaving composers out, why did you repeat?
Good, Hovhaness, anyone else?

Another way to think about Mahler is which ones could you possibly do without.  For me that would be 8, then 7, then 1.  And that would be it.

@mayoradamwest I can't do without the lovely last movement of the 4th.
My favorite is Felicity Lott with Franz Welzer-Most, which isn't particularly well known.
Phomchick,

I don’t quite understand your question.
Unless I’m wrong, you wanted to know who wrote the best 1st symphony, best second symphony, etc.
@twoleftears that’s fair about 4. I do like it. But I also love Tchaikovsky 4. The whole thing is a bit contrived. Mahler makes it unfair for works like Sibelius 2, Rachmaninov 2, Brahms 1, Shostakovich 5 (and 7), etc. and then of course why stop with numbers? How about Strauss’ tone poems like Alpine Symphony and and Ein Heldenlaben. 
mayoradamwest -- Duel!  Draw batons!  Mozart sums up the entire universe in his late symphonies, the ones from 29 onwards.  Grace, humanity & transcendent loveliness.  The earlier ones may not all be quite as transcendent but they make up for it in spirit and fun.  To me Mozart's music is like being with the most beautiful woman you've ever seen...a woman that knows how to party, too.
Symphony No. 5: Shostakovich 

It's a power house of a symphony, at least what I can remember, as I have not played it in a long while...
@edcyn sorry, not for me. Nothing Mozart ever wrote, to me, rivaled the finale of Mahler 2. There are videos of the end nearly bringing Bernstein to tears conducting it. Not so with Mozart. Or how about Mahler 5, mvt 4 - probably the most beautiful movement of any symphony ever written. 
There's plenty of emotion in Mozart, though it's not the on-your-sleeve variety of later composers. That doesn't mean that in his formal restraint he isn't expressive. What brings one to tears may induce a yawn in another, which often tells us more about the responders than the music itself. Read what Rubinstein and Schnabel said about Mozart's music, and how so many in the early 20th century foolishly reduced him to the maker of only pretty tunes, especially when compared to the Romantic titans then so in vogue. They knew compositional genius and depth, as well as deep emotion, and weren't fooled by popular opinion.

The 40th is a miracle. But the Adagio of the Clarinet Concerto is an entire world.

The Eroica, any number of recordings. Fürtwangler's, especially; wartime for white-hot playing, as if every note is the most important thing in the world.   


When you speak of emotion in Mozart, it cannot be measured by 19th century standards.  He was, to me, the most “human” of all composers.  The entire gamut of human feelings are expressed by him, but you must know his was a different musical language, having  its unique aesthetic symbols of expression.
Beethoven started off using the same language, but evolved to a language taken up by the entire 19th century. 
When you speak of emotion in Mozart, it cannot be measured by 19th century standards. He was, to me, the most “human” of all composers.

*eye roll* I get it, you like Mozart. Whatever. Calling him the most "human" is like calling the number 5 the most "5" of all numbers. Were the others part cyborg? Oh please.
Mod 10 symphony list:

Symphony No. (4)0 Mozart
Symphony No. 1: Copland
Symphony No. 2: Hovaness (although I still like Hanson)
Symphony No. 3: Saint-Saëns
Symphony No. 4: Bruckner
Symphony No. 5: Shostakovich
Symphony No. 6: Tchaikovsky
Symphony No. 7: Sibelius
Symphony No. 8: Mahler
Symphony No. 9: Beethoven
“we’re the others part cyborg?”

Yes, I guess there are cyborgs out there.
1. Brahms 2.Haydn 3.Mozart 4.Schubert 5.Beethoven 6.Schumann 7.Dvorak. 8. Sibelius 9. Vaughan Williams
Hard to live Tchaikovsky out but Vaughan Williams (or Elgar) wrote the best of modern English Symphonies .

IMO he wrote the most just plain beautiful piece ever written .

https://youtu.be/-mHgucSz1hs?t=1
It seems not possible to me to make such a marriage of pure love
between a violin and the sublime winds .
In the over 8,000 recordings I owned and 2,000 live Classic concerts I’ve been to in the last 60 years this is the Zenith for me .

I’ve heard it live 3 times and many tears flew in all .Listen to it every day and will in the little time I have left.God Willing
.Vaughan Williams started this just before WW I started and though he was to old to be a soldier , he spent the entire war as a ambulance man and saw many thousands of wounded and dead British and Canadian soldiers.
He finished it when he came back and as a combat soldier myself I am sure was not the same man.
A lark takes off in a long , high spiral , I think of the piece as the soul of a soldier wending his way to heaven .
@rvpiano1, you are correct,  the request was for your choice as to the best 1st symphony, the best 2nd symphony ... the best 9th symphony, while using nine composers. I was only commenting on the irony of your complaining about having to leave out some composers while giving two slots to one composer.

@schubert , yours is a very nice list, but do you really think Haydn wrote the best Symphony #2, and Mozart wrote the best Symphony #3?
Other Composers who exceeded 9 include Havergal Brian, who I think wound up in the thirties but who is best known for his First, the Gothic, which calls for Mahler Eighth like playing forces, and Edmund Rubbra, a very under rated Symphonist well worth your attention, who made it into double digits.
  I’m struck by the paucity of references here to composers such as Nielsen, Sibelius, and Rachmaninov, and Brahms didn’t seem to get a lot of love either.  Mahler seems to be a clear favorite, and no one will get a rebuke from me about that....This being an Audiophile site, I wonder how much that enters into the equation?  Mahler’s music, with his full use of the Orchestra and spatial effects, is tailor made for a good system 
Post removed 
Yes l would. 104 over 40.https://youtu.be/VdytrWnQMC0?t=2

His first Symphony’s were superb  , when he could compose what he wanted do .!


https://youtu.be/69r1k8oUaGs?t=85
I have this LP , though I am down to about 1,000 LP's these days it would in the last 5  I would part with .
I love Gustav Mahler for his tunes.  For the way he can evoke a time, place and mood.  For the way he creates a world you can not only see & hear, but can touch and walk around in. 


His First Symphony evokes what for me is the first day of Planet Earth.  The first movement gives us a fine summer morning.  The sun rises rises over the forest.  In the second movement, the forest's plants and animals dance, free of all care.  The third movement introduces Man, in the person of a Stone Age family arduously pushing their stone-wheeled cart.  Yes, they have an ox out front but the ox is near exhaustion.  The fourth movement is the big storm, a storm that, of course, finally, gloriously clears.

I remember putting on the Bruno Walter performance of the First Symphony during a make-out session in college.  Yeah, I won't go into details, but the girl had to admit that the music really did create a universe.
@edcyn  Indeed, Mahler's First Symphony may be the best 1st symphony ever written. And many scholars suspect that is because it was not his first symphony, only his first publish one.  I too, love the Bruno Walter version.