Haydn was the first great symphonist (he wrote 104 of them) and every great composer since has written symphonies. And strangely enough they often died after their ninth. Beethoven, Schubert and Dvorak didn't make it to 10, and Mahler left his tenth unfinished.
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Sir Colin Davis
While Haydn did not invent the symphony, he established it as the major form of classical music. Out of his 104 symphonies, the late London Symphonies are the most famous. A bargain set, a famous recording - a steal.
Near the end of his life Mozart's music became more serious and dark. His famous final two symphonies are full of passion and anger, but also beauty and peace. The complete set of 41 symphonies are available here.
Beethoven's nine symphonies form the backbone of western classical music. Get the whole lot. Essential listening. And this magnificent boxed set includes also his violin concerto and many other works on this vibrant original-instrument recording.
Berlin Philharmonic, Herbert von Karajan
Want just the nine symphonies in a bargain version? Herbert von Karajan's 1963 set is regarded as his best.
Mendelssohn's music is known for its wit and brilliance. This 5 CD box, for the price of two, includes his five symphonies, the Hebrides Overture and overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream. A bargain.
Sir Colin Davis
Hector Berlioz's gothic, romantic symphony, depicting infatuation, a dizzying waltz, an opium-induced delirium, murder, suicide, a beheading and a witches dance. What more could you want? Read our review.
Brahms' four symphonies are the successors to Beethoven's; grand, heroic and very German. This four CD set by acclaimed conductor Georg Solti also includes the Academic Festival Overture and Tragic Overture.
Christoph von Dohnanyi
Dvorak's final symphony From the New World was inspired by a trip to America. His seventh and eighth are also deservedly popular and give a Czech perspective on the symphony.
Gustav Mahler's symphonies are huge, complex works, employing enormous orchestras and often choirs and soloists. His first (The Titan) however, is very accessible, and on this CD is coupled with songs that inspired its themes.
Michael Tilson Thomas
Prokofiev's first symphony The Classical is a tribute to the great symphonist Haydn. Fun and easy on the ear. His fifth is more complex and more typical Prokofiev. Both masterpieces.