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Classical Notes

Morning Glories: 5 Must-Have Symphonies

Posted at 10:00 AM on August 8, 2011 by ClassicalMPR (6 Comments)

This week, Morning Glories will feature what we at Classical MPR have deemed five must-have symphonies. Tune in at 10 a.m. to hear them live, but if you miss them on the air, we'll be revealing each one right here on the blog every day.


We'll also have individual lists from our different hosts, and you should feel free to share your favorite symphonies in the comments section! Enjoy!



Monday: Mozart - Symphony No. 41

In the late 18th century, the symphony as we know it, with its development of themes and formal balance, was launched. Mozart's final symphony is a supreme example.




Tuesday: Tchaikovsky - Symphony No. 4

Tchaikovsky brings unflagging inventiveness to this symphony. Listen for the bold opening theme which reappears dramatically near the end.




Wednesday: Schubert - Symphony No. 9

The same gift of melody that makes Schubert a great song writer also shines through in this symphony, but at greater length — "heavenly length," as Robert Schumann called it.




Thursday: Beethoven - Symphony No. 5

If Beethoven is the archetypal composer, this is the archetypal symphony.




Friday: Brahms: Symphony No. 4

Writing in the late 19th century, Brahms continues the great tradition of the symphony, combining Classical poise and Romantic intensity.





Comments (6)

Rachmaninoff #2 - exquisite beauty
Vaughan Williams #5 - intense pastoral scenery
Brahms #1 - dedication to human expereince
Tchaikovsky #6 - meloncholy love
Mahler #6 - triumph of humanity

Posted by Arnold Weissler | August 8, 2011 10:34 AM


Beethoven #3 - addressing all of humanity on a
grand scale
Brahms #1 - addressing humanity one-on-one
on a personal level
Tchaikovsky #6 - intimate portrayal of bearing
one's soul
Beethoven #7 - revealing the boundless energy
of the universe
Rachmaninoff #2 - connected to the universe;
transcending time

Posted by William Stuber | August 9, 2011 8:41 PM


Rachmaninoff's 2nd - when I lived in SF, the 3rd movement was the lead in to Music Through the Night. I'm always reminded of those early days when I moved to this new city for my first job. Minn Orchestra's presentation of it this year was wonderful.
Mozart # 40 - One of the first records I purchased as a member of the Columbia Record Club. I knew little about it then. I know more now.
Sibelius -- #5? I'm even more of a Sibelius fan now that we have Osmo in town.
Mahler's 2-whenever I have a big writing project or presentation in the works, I turn on Mahler's 2, at a rather high volume. That rumbly beginning always gets me in the mood for work. And awaiting the soaring finale - what a great symphony.

BTW,. I've enjoyed hearing about others' favorites. I was glad to be reminded about Prokofiev. This will be added to my ipod.

Posted by Chris | August 10, 2011 3:57 PM


Sibelius 5. The questing bassoon in the first movement that gradually emerges into the dancing scherzo never fails to make me laugh with delight, especially when Stephen Paulson plays: like the unuttered prayers of the human soul.

Stravinsky Symphony of Psalms. The dispassionately violent, remorselessly cerebral take on the scripture is pure, bracing delight. The last movement always reminds me of Picasso's giant people bouncing on the edge of the sea.

Brahms 3. Moves us into a completely wild harmonic landscape by means of cunningly lyrical voice-leading, foreshadowing the world of the century to come.

Mahler 6. Mostly for the heartbreaking entreaty of the slow movement with its increasingly heightened variations on a lovely theme.

Beethoven 5. Still one of the most modern pieces one could ever hear; this titanic piece establishes the whole category of what imaginative ground the symphony is capable of depicting.

Posted by Joseph Tambornino | August 10, 2011 5:39 PM


Only five? OK, how about these:
Schubert fifth - A superb small gem, light and melodious.

Shostakovich 5th - My first favorite symphony, the piano part is a real stunner.

Saint-Saëns: #3- The Organ symphony that does full justice to an under-appreciated composer.

Arnold: Symphony #5- A contemporary composer of movie music shows he has the right stuff.

Prokofiev . Symphony # 5 - What a bravura display by one of the great melodists of the 20th century.

Posted by Stanley Goldstein | August 10, 2011 9:46 PM


1. Shostakovich Symphony #10 -- brooding beauty, one of the greatest political statements in music.

2. Shostakovich Symphony #11 -- more brooding, spectacular use of color in orchestration, great depiction of war.

3. Vaughan Williams Symphony #5 -- sheer beauty, especially the second movement (which always makes me stop whatever I am doing and turn up the volume).

4. Gorecki Symphony #3 -- drama and pathos, incredible depth (a 32-part round for strings to open?), especially the recording with Dawn Upshaw.

5. Strauss Alpine Symphony -- probably not technically a "symphony" but still one of the most vivid pieces I know! Amazing forces (a bass oboe? come on) and his ability to delay and then prolong the climaxes.

Posted by Steve Cronk | August 11, 2011 6:37 PM