Author Topic: Six symphonies where the final movement is the best.  (Read 12786 times)

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Offline vandermolen

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Re: Six symphonies where the final movement is the best.
« Reply #40 on: October 07, 2015, 12:35:33 AM »
Well, arguing that one thing or another is "best" is problematic at "best." ;) But there are many symphonies in which the finale is more than merely the movement last heard, where it sums up and resolves all that has gone before.  Beethoven 5 and 9 are two of the earliest and best examples of this. (Yes, many music fans say the finale of 9 is structurally and musically the weakest, but I've found that in performance it always draws a thunderous audience response, the sort that only comes from an intense musical catharsis. 8) )  Bruckner's, Tchaikovsky's and Mahler's symphonies also show an increasing tendency for the finale to sum up what came before it.

And there are also symphonies in which the finale tries and fails to do this.  The aforementioned Symphonie Fantastique is one; as brilliant as the finale is (I chose to conduct it for my final exam in my college conducting class), it is by no means a summation but merely a dramatic "scene."  And the final movements in Mendelssohn's "Lobgesang" and "Reformation" symphonies are not particularly strong, although he tried to make them the summation of their respective symphonies.
Very interesting point.
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Offline Maestro267

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Re: Six symphonies where the final movement is the best.
« Reply #41 on: October 07, 2015, 01:58:37 AM »
Bax 6
Elgar 2
Bruckner 5
Tchaikovsky 1
Beethoven 5
Dvorak 7

Offline (poco) Sforzando

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Re: Six symphonies where the final movement is the best.
« Reply #42 on: October 09, 2015, 12:58:05 PM »
Well, arguing that one thing or another is "best" is problematic at "best." ;) But there are many symphonies in which the finale is more than merely the movement last heard, where it sums up and resolves all that has gone before.  Beethoven 5 and 9 are two of the earliest and best examples of this. (Yes, many music fans say the finale of 9 is structurally and musically the weakest, but I've found that in performance it always draws a thunderous audience response, the sort that only comes from an intense musical catharsis. 8) )  Bruckner's, Tchaikovsky's and Mahler's symphonies also show an increasing tendency for the finale to sum up what came before it.

And there are also symphonies in which the finale tries and fails to do this.  The aforementioned Symphonie Fantastique is one; as brilliant as the finale is (I chose to conduct it for my final exam in my college conducting class), it is by no means a summation but merely a dramatic "scene."  And the final movements in Mendelssohn's "Lobgesang" and "Reformation" symphonies are not particularly strong, although he tried to make them the summation of their respective symphonies.

I would agree with all of this. Heretical as it sounds, too, I think Mahler in his 2nd does a better job of integrating the choral movement than Beethoven in the 9th.
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Offline Jo498

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Re: Six symphonies where the final movement is the best.
« Reply #43 on: October 09, 2015, 01:58:18 PM »
I find the orchestral section of the finale of Mahler 2 too long. It's breathtaking when the chorus sets in but I don't think it is musically all that well integrated. It basically depends on that last jugdment "backstory" to the symphony.
In any case the choir is much mor important and for a longer part of the movement involved in the Beethoven 9th, so I find it actually hard to compare them. Beethoven might have been "overdoing" it with the motivation/explanation of the choir, he really is an enlightened rationalist here compared to the late-romantic mystic religiosity of Mahler, but even if the movement is "loose" for Beethoven, when I listen to it, I find it tighter and more stringent than e.g. the Mahler 2 finale.
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Offline vandermolen

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Re: Six symphonies where the final movement is the best.
« Reply #44 on: October 10, 2015, 12:59:18 AM »
Bax 6
Elgar 2
Bruckner 5
Tchaikovsky 1
Beethoven 5
Dvorak 7

I think that it is also true for Bax Symphony 7 as the ending is quite wonderful.
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Offline amw

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Re: Six symphonies where the final movement is the best.
« Reply #45 on: October 10, 2015, 02:15:06 AM »
I find the orchestral section of the finale of Mahler 2 too long. It's breathtaking when the chorus sets in but I don't think it is musically all that well integrated. It basically depends on that last jugdment "backstory" to the symphony.
In any case the choir is much mor important and for a longer part of the movement involved in the Beethoven 9th, so I find it actually hard to compare them. Beethoven might have been "overdoing" it with the motivation/explanation of the choir, he really is an enlightened rationalist here compared to the late-romantic mystic religiosity of Mahler, but even if the movement is "loose" for Beethoven, when I listen to it, I find it tighter and more stringent than e.g. the Mahler 2 finale.
My thoughts as well, but then, I'm no Mahler fan. The entry of the choir is magical, everything else in the movement either falls flat or was done better in the Eighth.

Structurally, Beethoven 9's finale is fairly straightforward when listened to—maybe not on paper. It's basically a long development of one main theme—when other themes appear, they're clearly set up to eventually combine contrapuntally with it. In that sense it's sort of an early-19th-century analogue of the Handel-Oratorio fugue, stretched to 25 minutes (Beethoven apparently expected it to be a lot shorter, the symphony was supposed to last 45 minutes in total, but one does sometimes miscalculate these things). What Beethoven probably intended was to convey the same sort of character as a big choral number in the Messiah or Israel in Egypt or whatever—he considered Handel his 'grand master'—but without resorting to the actual imitation-Baroque 'learned style' that he could parcel out throughout the Missa solemnis without disturbing its essentially modern character. There's space only for one bit of stile antico at the appearance of 'Seid umschlungen (sp?), Millionen', with the rest being essentially modern music: military marches, Turkish Janissary music, solo arias and finally a comic opera finale full of contretemps and complications (with no actual words to indicate a scenario, but in a musical style immediately recogniseable as such). I suppose he recognised Handel's style circa 1730 as being essentially popular in nature, leading to his wide success, and thus decided in turn to incorporate popular styles of his own day.

I think the unity of Beethoven 9/iv is essentially dramatic as much as it is essentially musical—it follows the logic of an operatic scene, whereas Mahler 2/v seems to me to sacrifice drama for musical unity (that or he just didn't have a good handle on dramatic pacing at this stage of his career. Symphony 2 was before he'd become famous as an opera conductor, wasn't it?).

Offline Jo498

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Re: Six symphonies where the final movement is the best.
« Reply #46 on: October 10, 2015, 02:44:44 AM »
To this day I have copy of a worksheet I found in a book I bought second-hand (probably one Vol. of Tovey's essays probably bought in a 2nd hand book store in Seattle in 1996) with an "analysis" of the last movement of Beethoven's 9th as a hybrid of sonata and variation form and also with the four-movement structure of a sonata mirrored in one movement (like op.133). It is plausible and the stretching that is required can be explained by the fact that the structure of the ode in several stanzas had to be implemented as well.

I agree with your stressing the "popular" elements. This was pointed out by Rosen in several of his writings - he draws parallels with Zauberfloete, late Haydn, especially the oratorios, and they occur in other late Beethoven as well (Diabellis, scherzo and scherzando movements of late quartets etc.). Corny as some bits of Schiller's text may appear today, I also think that the mix of sublime and popular has a firm basis in the ode. It had started out as a drinking/merry-making song and one point is to encompass "all creatures great and small", from worm to cherub and both sensual as well as sublime joy.

I doubt  that Beethoven realized that Handel had been writing in a comparably popular style in the 1730/40s because for him (and Haydn and Mozart) Handel's choral works were exemplars of a monumental, "sublime" style, reception already filtered by several decades.
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)

Offline jochanaan

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Re: Six symphonies where the final movement is the best.
« Reply #47 on: October 10, 2015, 05:28:25 PM »
...whereas Mahler 2/v seems to me to sacrifice drama for musical unity (that or he just didn't have a good handle on dramatic pacing at this stage of his career. Symphony 2 was before he'd become famous as an opera conductor, wasn't it?).
Perhaps before he became famous as an opera conductor, but he was already working as a conductor in Hamburg when writing the 2nd.  And actually, I feel that M2's finale shows great mastery of both dramatic and symphonic form.  But then, I do love all of Mahler's music. :)
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Green Destiny

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Re: Six symphonies where the final movement is the best.
« Reply #48 on: October 10, 2015, 06:04:21 PM »
I can only think of 3 Symphonies where the final movement is the best:

Sibelius 5th
Shostakovich 15th
Arnold 9th

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Six symphonies where the final movement is the best.
« Reply #49 on: October 10, 2015, 10:49:32 PM »
I can only think of 3 Symphonies where the final movement is the best:

Sibelius 5th
Shostakovich 15th
Arnold 9th

Very interesting. I agree about all three, especially the Arnold.
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Offline Madiel

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Re: Six symphonies where the final movement is the best.
« Reply #50 on: October 11, 2015, 03:22:22 AM »
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Offline vandermolen

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Re: Six symphonies where the final movement is the best.
« Reply #51 on: October 15, 2015, 12:57:18 PM »
George Lloyd: Symphony 4.
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ComposerOfAvantGarde

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Re: Six symphonies where the final movement is the best.
« Reply #52 on: October 15, 2015, 08:43:25 PM »
Let's see............

Shostakovich 6
Sibelius 3
Bruckner 5
Mahler 1
Beethoven 9
Mozart 41

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Six symphonies where the final movement is the best.
« Reply #53 on: October 16, 2015, 07:47:52 AM »
Let's see............

Shostakovich 6
Sibelius 3
Bruckner 5
Mahler 1
Beethoven 9
Mozart 41
Think I prefer the long opening movement of the Shostakovich although I agree about all the others but don't know the Mozart well enough to comment.  :o
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Online OrchestralNut

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Re: Six symphonies where the final movement is the best.
« Reply #54 on: October 16, 2015, 07:50:26 AM »
Let's see............

Shostakovich 6


A terrific galloping final movement indeed, although I prefer the intense opening movement.

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Six symphonies where the final movement is the best.
« Reply #55 on: October 16, 2015, 08:17:55 AM »
A terrific galloping final movement indeed, although I prefer the intense opening movement.

Yes, me too Mr Nut.  :)
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Offline (poco) Sforzando

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Re: Six symphonies where the final movement is the best.
« Reply #56 on: October 16, 2015, 08:53:53 AM »
Think I prefer the long opening movement of the Shostakovich although I agree about all the others but don't know the Mozart well enough to comment.  :o

Most of the movement is a typically high-quality Mozart sonata-form. What makes it special is a passage of about 16 bars in the coda, where five themes are combined using a technique known as invertible counterpoint. (In invertible counterpoint, each melody can also serve as the bass to another, and in this small but dazzling passage every single one of the themes is used both as bass and melody.) Contrary to reports that Mozart always composed spontaneously without sketching, this section surely cost him a lot of work!
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Offline jochanaan

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Re: Six symphonies where the final movement is the best.
« Reply #57 on: October 16, 2015, 09:11:36 AM »
Most of the movement is a typically high-quality Mozart sonata-form. What makes it special is a passage of about 16 bars in the coda, where five themes are combined using a technique known as invertible counterpoint. (In invertible counterpoint, each melody can also serve as the bass to another, and in this small but dazzling passage every single one of the themes is used both as bass and melody.) Contrary to reports that Mozart always composed spontaneously without sketching, this section surely cost him a lot of work!
There is also a passage of five-part imitative counterpoint in the exposition.  And the entire Jupiter Symphony finale shows a contrapuntal mastery we do not normally associate with Mozart but which he obviously had in full. 8)
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Offline Jo498

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Re: Six symphonies where the final movement is the best.
« Reply #58 on: October 16, 2015, 12:22:03 PM »
The Jupiter Finale might be a particularly demonstrative tour de force, but somewhat similar things are not all that rare in mature Mozart. The most famous example besides the Jupiter is probably the finale of the G major quartet K 387. But his first real piano concerto K 175 has already a finale employing elements of the "learned style", so do two early quartets (one with a rather mannered chromatic fugal theme, those two do sound a little like exercises...) and the early string quintet, all before K 200 (those last three works were probably inspired by the final fugues in Haydn's op.20, but fugal movements can also be found in works of other early classical composers, e.g. Franz Xaver Richter, a few of his quartets (alpha) and symphonies (Naxos) have been recorded). Then there is the rather demonstrative Cum sancto spiritu (I think) fugue in the c minor mass, with the theme in inversion.
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Offline vandermolen

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Re: Six symphonies where the final movement is the best.
« Reply #59 on: October 16, 2015, 02:58:19 PM »
Most of the movement is a typically high-quality Mozart sonata-form. What makes it special is a passage of about 16 bars in the coda, where five themes are combined using a technique known as invertible counterpoint. (In invertible counterpoint, each melody can also serve as the bass to another, and in this small but dazzling passage every single one of the themes is used both as bass and melody.) Contrary to reports that Mozart always composed spontaneously without sketching, this section surely cost him a lot of work!
Thank you!
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).