Author Topic: Five exceptionally fine first symphonies  (Read 3558 times)

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Offline Christo

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Five exceptionally fine first symphonies
« on: July 20, 2017, 11:31:45 PM »
... showing the mastery of an accomplished symphonist:

Havergal Brian 1926
Kaljo Raid 1944
Joly Braga Santos 1947
Arnold Cooke 1947
Ahmet Adnan Saygun 1953
« Last Edit: July 20, 2017, 11:33:39 PM by Christo »
… music is not only an `entertainment’, nor a mere luxury, but a necessity of the spiritual if not of the physical life, an opening of those magic casements through which we can catch a glimpse of that country where ultimate reality will be found.    RVW, 1948

Online vandermolen

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Re: Five exceptionally fine first symphonies
« Reply #1 on: July 21, 2017, 12:21:41 AM »
... showing the mastery of an accomplished symphonist:

Havergal Brian 1926
Kaljo Raid 1944
Joly Braga Santos 1947
Arnold Cooke 1947
Ahmet Adnan Saygun 1953

Once again we are largely in agreement but here goes. I'll include some alternatives:

Walton
Tubin
Shostakovich
Mahler
Klaus Egge

I've left out Rootham out of respect for yourself.  8)
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

Offline Brian

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Re: Five exceptionally fine first symphonies
« Reply #2 on: July 21, 2017, 07:49:12 AM »
My list would likely be:

Haydn
Berlioz (cheating?)
Schumann (if Berlioz is cheating)
Mahler
Roussel
H. Brian

Honorable mention: Niels W. Gade

Offline Alberich

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Re: Five exceptionally fine first symphonies
« Reply #3 on: July 21, 2017, 09:53:44 AM »
I can't believe I'm the first one to mention Brahms. That just may be the greatest symphony 1 ever written (well, Beethoven's, Sibelius's and Mahler's are very good too).
"Javert, though frightful, had nothing ignoble about him. Probity, sincerity, candor, conviction, the sense of duty, are things which may become hideous when wrongly directed; but which, even when hideous, remain grand."

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Offline Christo

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Re: Five exceptionally fine first symphonies
« Reply #4 on: July 21, 2017, 09:57:45 AM »
I can't believe I'm the first one
Well, yes, you are.  ;)
… music is not only an `entertainment’, nor a mere luxury, but a necessity of the spiritual if not of the physical life, an opening of those magic casements through which we can catch a glimpse of that country where ultimate reality will be found.    RVW, 1948

Offline springrite

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Re: Five exceptionally fine first symphonies
« Reply #5 on: July 21, 2017, 10:07:47 AM »
Shostakovich
Mahler
Brahms
Barber
Prokofiev
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Offline Florestan

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Re: Five exceptionally fine first symphonies
« Reply #6 on: July 21, 2017, 10:32:36 AM »
Haydn
Schumann
Tchaikovsky
Mahler
Sibelius

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Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: Five exceptionally fine first symphonies
« Reply #7 on: July 21, 2017, 10:33:21 AM »
Brahms
Rachmaninov
Elgar
Vaughan Williams
Langgaard

Perhaps Arensky is a sympathetic sixth man...
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Offline Cato

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Re: Five exceptionally fine first symphonies
« Reply #8 on: July 21, 2017, 10:44:28 AM »
Speaking of Brahms. and Mahler...


Bruckner

Hans Rott


Others not yet mentioned (I think) from more recent years...

Karl Amadeus Hartmann

Bernard Herrmann

Zoltan Kodaly

Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov

Karl Henning


« Last Edit: July 21, 2017, 01:37:35 PM by Cato »
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Offline Brian

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Re: Five exceptionally fine first symphonies
« Reply #9 on: July 21, 2017, 11:44:41 AM »
Oooh, Langgaard, Elgar, and Prokofiev are excellent choices.

I'm still not 100% convinced by the Brahms  :(

Offline Jo498

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Re: Five exceptionally fine first symphonies
« Reply #10 on: July 21, 2017, 12:23:06 PM »
I have some quibbles about the Brahms 1st but even so it still beats all others 1sts I know.
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
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Offline Christo

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Re: Five exceptionally fine first symphonies
« Reply #11 on: July 21, 2017, 12:33:11 PM »
I have some quibbles about the Brahms 1st but even so it still beats all others 1sts I know.

Well, but not, now that I came to think of them:
Sauguet
Goossens
Irgens-Jensen
Moeran
Walton
… music is not only an `entertainment’, nor a mere luxury, but a necessity of the spiritual if not of the physical life, an opening of those magic casements through which we can catch a glimpse of that country where ultimate reality will be found.    RVW, 1948

Online vandermolen

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Re: Five exceptionally fine first symphonies
« Reply #12 on: July 21, 2017, 01:30:02 PM »
Well, but not, now that I came to think of them:
Sauguet
Goossens
Irgens-Jensen
Moeran
Walton
Well, this could be my list too - all of them. I even now have two recordings of Sauguet's fine 'Expiatoire' Symphony.
List No.2

Khachaturian ) his graduation exercise)
Robert Simpson - my favourite of his cycle (also his graduation exercise)
Samuel Barber
Blomdahl
Bloch Symphony in C ( think it's his first one)
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Offline Cato

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Re: Five exceptionally fine first symphonies
« Reply #13 on: July 21, 2017, 01:40:38 PM »
Speaking of Brahms. and Mahler...


Bruckner

Hans Rott


Others not yet mentioned (I think) from more recent years...

Karl Amadeus Hartmann

Bernard Herrmann

Zoltan Kodaly

Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov

Karl Henning


Thanks to YouTube:

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/nfemhSHDlrY&amp;t=657s" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/nfemhSHDlrY&amp;t=657s</a>

and

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/MUZuhU87yiU" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/MUZuhU87yiU</a>
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

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Offline SymphonicAddict

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Re: Five exceptionally fine first symphonies
« Reply #14 on: July 21, 2017, 02:30:17 PM »
How difficult this is, but it doesn't matter:

Khachaturian
Brahms
Tchaikovsky
Brian
Penderecki

Honorable mentions (5 more):

Barber
Walton
Bax
Langgaard
Lyatoshinsky

Online vandermolen

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Re: Five exceptionally fine first symphonies
« Reply #15 on: July 21, 2017, 10:33:30 PM »
How difficult this is, but it doesn't matter:

Khachaturian
Brahms
Tchaikovsky
Brian
Penderecki

Honorable mentions (5 more):

Barber
Walton
Bax
Langgaard
Lyatoshinsky
Good to see a vote for Lyatoshinsky.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

Offline amw

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Re: Five exceptionally fine first symphonies
« Reply #16 on: July 22, 2017, 03:35:13 AM »
I would question whether a first symphony, by definition, could be the work of an accomplished symphonist ;) Generally—although there are exceptions (Mahler's four student symphonies, etc)—a composer hasn't accomplished any symphonies prior to writing that first one!

I have some quibbles about the Brahms 1st but even so it still beats all others 1sts I know.
Brahms 1 is quite lonely in the position of first symphonies that are also indisputably great works of the orchestral repertoire, with only the Berlioz Fantastique for company.

There are also numerous "near greats", either seen as lacking some special quality of later works by their composer (Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Shostakovich) or considered to have structural or musical flaws (Schumann, Mahler, Franck) or only popular in their home countries (Elgar).... etc.

A personal top five list is much more about which pieces connect with you in certain ways not relevant to their musical quality though. Mine would be fairly basic:

Brahms
Berlioz
Beethoven
Schoenberg
Martinů

Probably the runners-up are what people are really interested in though:

Webern
Bizet
Voříšek
Nielsen
Berwald
Enescu
Goldmark

Or.... maybe not. I'm not totally sure the symphonies I like are serious enough to qualify me for GMG membership. Need to listen to more Ture Rangström and Karl Amadeus Hartmann, presumably. >.>
« Last Edit: July 22, 2017, 03:40:23 AM by amw »

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Five exceptionally fine first symphonies
« Reply #17 on: July 22, 2017, 04:00:53 AM »
Oooh, Langgaard, Elgar, and Prokofiev are excellent choices.

I'm still not 100% convinced by the Brahms  :(

It’s a bold experiment.  In a way which was probably one of the ways in which he admired Dvořák, it is a bit lavish with material.  I’ll say I am convinced by the piece, but it is hard not to “judge” it against the standard of his later admirable economy of expression and material.  By the same token, that “benchmark” underscores my appreciation of the first point (bold experiment, above).
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Offline Maestro267

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Re: Five exceptionally fine first symphonies
« Reply #18 on: July 22, 2017, 11:26:28 AM »
Nice to see so much love for the Gothic here. I shall include it in my list too.

Brian
Vaughan Williams
Alwyn
Schnittke
Walton

Offline Jo498

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Re: Five exceptionally fine first symphonies
« Reply #19 on: July 22, 2017, 11:30:54 PM »
Schoenberg is the first Kammersymphonie?

(I have to check Martinu, Enescu, Goldmark, don't think I ever heard their first symhonies.)

There are certainly also differences among the pieces that are comparably early (Beethoven, Berlioz) or actually youthful (Bizet, also Arriaga or Weill) and "late early symphonies" by otherwise quite experienced and accomplished composers (Brahms, Franck, Elgar).
(Again there are some still hard to classify along such lines: Bruckner was 40 when he wrote the f minor, 43 when he wrote the first symphony but compared to Brahms or Franck he had not composed all that much (publishable) before that time.)

What I have against the Brahms are really quibbles; in another forum it turned out to be many people's favorite Brahms symphony. I think the finale is a little problematic and shows some of its history and Beethoven's shadow. The first movement is thoroughly great and gripping but it tonally and emotionally resolves at the end. So the finale needs the intro to get back to the dark mood and while impressive at the moment that turning point with Alphorn melody and brass chorale seems a little overdone. And afterwards Brahms is not really the guy for 10 min of triumph so he has to do "work" with the hymn-like theme to get another triumphal return and coda all of which do not quite have the emotional impact for that first turning point (Alphorn) has.

Brahms seems to be aware that he cannot do an "through darkness to light" in the straightforward way Beethoven did (for all kinds of musical and emotional reasons) but he still tries it in some fashion. And so while everything is musically exceptionally fine on its own, it does not really work for me all taken together. The comparably light character of the inner movement is also an aspect. I absolutely love the 3rd movement but it seems like an intermezzo that has almost nothing to do with a large arc going from drama to triumph. (Why should it? Because the outer movements seems to imply such an arc.)
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)