Best "First" symphonies

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Heck148
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Re: Best "First" symphonies

Post by Heck148 » Mon Dec 27, 2010 2:59 pm

hollowman wrote:Which Beethoven 1 is best?
Toscanini/NBC
Reiner/CSO
Abbado/BPO

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Re: Best "First" symphonies

Post by RebLem » Mon Dec 27, 2010 7:10 pm

Heck148 wrote:
hollowman wrote:Which Beethoven 1 is best?
Toscanini/NBC
Reiner/CSO
Abbado/BPO
IMNSHO, Solti is definitely best in both the first two symphonies, but you should be warned he does have a controversial POV of them. He doesn't see them as mere study symphonies written as practice before the Eroica; he sees them as fully mature Beethoven symphonies entitled to stand proudly alongside the others. For the more conventional view, I like Szell.
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Re: Best "First" symphonies

Post by starrynight » Mon Dec 27, 2010 8:14 pm

Toscanini / BBC SO

Heck148
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Re: Best "First" symphonies

Post by Heck148 » Mon Dec 27, 2010 11:56 pm

RebLem wrote: IMNSHO, Solti is definitely best in both the first two symphonies, but you should be warned he does have a controversial POV of them. He doesn't see them as mere study symphonies written as practice before the Eroica; he sees them as fully mature Beethoven symphonies entitled to stand proudly alongside the others.
I'd lke to hear Solti's. I don't think I've heard either of them...Sym#2 is definitely a substantial work, not just a warm-up
for this work I like:

Walter/NYPO
Reiner/CSO/DVD [his PittsSO one is really excellent also]
Szell/CO
Abbado/BPO for a newer one is quite good also.

starrynight
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Re: Best "First" symphonies

Post by starrynight » Fri Dec 31, 2010 3:31 am

I don't see the point of looking at the first two symphonies as study symphonies or warm ups. The composer accepted them into his canon of works. His style changed over time but that's the case for alot of composers. I don't see why some people like to read history backwards and look at earlier pieces in the light of what came later. It's the same with some other composers really. Later developments in a composer's style are not inevitable and their earlier work can sometimes be very successful if looked at on its own terms, particularly with some of the greatest composers.

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Re: Best "First" symphonies

Post by ContrapunctusIX » Fri Dec 31, 2010 10:42 am

Brahms
Mahler
Barber
Sibelius

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Re: Best "First" symphonies

Post by karlhenning » Fri Dec 31, 2010 1:11 pm

starrynight wrote:I don't see the point of looking at the first two symphonies as study symphonies or warm ups.
That would be, because with a first symphony the composer generally does not have years of experience writing for the orchestra, nor of working with the form. I doubt that Beethoven felt that with his Ninth Symphony, he had not come a long way — and indeed, that his art had not in many ways improved — since his First.

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starrynight
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Re: Best "First" symphonies

Post by starrynight » Fri Dec 31, 2010 1:53 pm

karlhenning wrote:
starrynight wrote:I don't see the point of looking at the first two symphonies as study symphonies or warm ups.
That would be, because with a first symphony the composer generally does not have years of experience writing for the orchestra, nor of working with the form. I doubt that Beethoven felt that with his Ninth Symphony, he had not come a long way — and indeed, that his art had not in many ways improved — since his First.

Cheers,
~Karl
Beethoven wasn't that young when he wrote his first symphony though, and he had wrote various orchestral pieces like his first 2 piano concertos before as well. Beethoven's style no doubt changed greatly, but as fine as much of the 9th is (such as the first movement) it isn't my favourite one. The 6th is probably my favourite Beethoven symphony but I still think the 1st is one of the most perfect ones he did even if it isn't as ambitious as some later ones. Ambition isn't everything to me, overall musical achievement at whatever level a work aims can be important to me as well.

Beethoven certainly sometimes felt some of his earlier works weren't that relevant later in his life and he dismissed them. He did this with some early sonatas, his septet and his earlier string quartets. But that doesn't mean I have to feel the same way. I suppose as he changed his style he felt the need to dismiss earlier works sometimes, but the audience for his works doesn't have to do that.

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Re: Best "First" symphonies

Post by karlhenning » Fri Dec 31, 2010 2:51 pm

starrynight wrote:
karlhenning wrote:
starrynight wrote:I don't see the point of looking at the first two symphonies as study symphonies or warm ups.
That would be, because with a first symphony the composer generally does not have years of experience writing for the orchestra, nor of working with the form. I doubt that Beethoven felt that with his Ninth Symphony, he had not come a long way — and indeed, that his art had not in many ways improved — since his First.
Beethoven wasn't that young when he wrote his first symphony though, and he had wrote various orchestral pieces like his first 2 piano concertos before as well. Beethoven's style no doubt changed greatly, but as fine as much of the 9th is (such as the first movement) it isn't my favourite one. The 6th is probably my favourite Beethoven symphony but I still think the 1st is one of the most perfect ones he did even if it isn't as ambitious as some later ones. Ambition isn't everything to me, overall musical achievement at whatever level a work aims can be important to me as well.

Beethoven certainly sometimes felt some of his earlier works weren't that relevant later in his life and he dismissed them. He did this with some early sonatas, his septet and his earlier string quartets. But that doesn't mean I have to feel the same way. I suppose as he changed his style he felt the need to dismiss earlier works sometimes, but the audience for his works doesn't have to do that.
Whether Beethoven dismissed the First Symphony, I don't recall. Myself, while I am pleased when returning to earlier compositions, to find with some relief that I still like them and am entirely content still to own them . . . I should feel a bit slighted, somehow, if someone told me that the early music is just as good as my latest compositions. It isn't quite any matter of ambition in the music. I should think no artist would be happy with the idea that for 20 years, his art has essentially treaded water, and not gone . . . somewhere.

(Part — but only part — of my own contrarianism here is, half the time when you see a silly 100 Greatest Symphonies list, all Beethoven's nine take up their obligatory oxygen . . . as if the Beethoven First were necessarily greater than, well, 200 other symphonies.)

Whether the first symphony by a composer is in some ways a 'study' or 'preparatory' to greater refinements later, is one question (and really, it seems to me, not much of a question). Which of the nine symphonies may be one's favorite, is another. Many people (a passing phase for some, though not all) embrace a contrarian take on the Ninth — the apparent kitchen-sink of the finale especially raises eyebrows — but it's been a staple of the repertory practically since its première. I honestly don't see that happening without a substantial consensus among musicians that the whole symphony clears the bar.

You're perfectly right, though, that the fact that the first two symphonies are less historically significant pieces than the Sinfonia eroica does not mean anything one way or another about how any individual should feel about listening to any of the lot.

It's hard not to feel, though, that if Beethoven had dropped dead after writing his Second Symphony — fine work and lovely piece though it be — he would not be the Titan of Music we know today.

Cheers,
~Karl
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starrynight
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Re: Best "First" symphonies

Post by starrynight » Fri Dec 31, 2010 7:22 pm

karlhenning wrote:[
Whether Beethoven dismissed the First Symphony, I don't recall. Myself, while I am pleased when returning to earlier compositions, to find with some relief that I still like them and am entirely content still to own them . . . I should feel a bit slighted, somehow, if someone told me that the early music is just as good as my latest compositions. It isn't quite any matter of ambition in the music. I should think no artist would be happy with the idea that for 20 years, his art has essentially treaded water, and not gone . . . somewhere.

(Part — but only part — of my own contrarianism here is, half the time when you see a silly 100 Greatest Symphonies list, all Beethoven's nine take up their obligatory oxygen . . . as if the Beethoven First were necessarily greater than, well, 200 other symphonies.)

Whether the first symphony by a composer is in some ways a 'study' or 'preparatory' to greater refinements later, is one question (and really, it seems to me, not much of a question). Which of the nine symphonies may be one's favorite, is another. Many people (a passing phase for some, though not all) embrace a contrarian take on the Ninth — the apparent kitchen-sink of the finale especially raises eyebrows — but it's been a staple of the repertory practically since its première. I honestly don't see that happening without a substantial consensus among musicians that the whole symphony clears the bar.

You're perfectly right, though, that the fact that the first two symphonies are less historically significant pieces than the Sinfonia eroica does not mean anything one way or another about how any individual should feel about listening to any of the lot.

It's hard not to feel, though, that if Beethoven had dropped dead after writing his Second Symphony — fine work and lovely piece though it be — he would not be the Titan of Music we know today.

Cheers,
~Karl
Well where '100 best symphonies' or whatever is concerned it's obviously a bit of a silly title. How can you ascertain for sure that one symphony in a particular style is better than another in a completely different style? All you can really call a list like that is '100 good or recommended symphonies', and I would recommend Beethoven's 1st among other symphonies.

Also from the point of view of the audience it's important to look at each composer separately. Some of the best composers arguably did quite alot of good music early on in their output. Some other composers maybe developed more acceptable music later in their output. If Beethoven had dropped dead after he had composed the second symphony I think he would still be considered to be a very good composer and still probably one of the very best of his time.

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Re: Best "First" symphonies

Post by Jack Kelso » Mon Jan 03, 2011 3:50 am

Two of the very finest "First Symphonies" which are little-known are those of Robert Volkmann in D Minor, op. 44 and Hermann Goetz in F Major, op. 9.

Both should be in the standard repertoire.

Tschüß,
Jack
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Re: Best "First" symphonies

Post by karlhenning » Mon Jan 03, 2011 9:52 am

springrite wrote:Mahler
Brahms
Brian
Soon, at last, I shall give the Gothic an initial listen. Only waiting on delivery! Curiosity piqued yet more by this teaser from Down Under.

Cheers,
~Karl
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Re: Best "First" symphonies

Post by Wallingford » Mon Jan 03, 2011 3:50 pm

Well, I always though the Mahler First was a pretty darn good symphony to come from anyone......

......too bad about what came in its wake.
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Re: Best "First" symphonies

Post by Seán » Mon Jan 03, 2011 5:43 pm

Wallingford wrote:Well, I always though the Mahler First was a pretty darn good symphony to come from anyone......

......too bad about what came in its wake.
hmmm, we'll agree to disagree on that then, shall we? :wink:
Seán

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Re: Best "First" symphonies

Post by John F » Tue Jan 04, 2011 10:17 pm

Several have mentioned Shostakovich's first symphony. I happened on a broadcast of it just now, after not hearing it for years. What an extraordinary achievement, not just as a major symphonist's first effort, fully mature and speaking with his own voice, but because Shostakovich was under 20 and still a conservatory student when he wrote it.

In some ways he never surpassed it. The structure of the work is symphonic in the most traditional sense; anyone who knows how Haydn and Mozart put their symphonies together, will have no problem at all in following this symphony's concise and tightly woven musical argument. Later, perhaps owing to the influence of Mahler, Shostakovich wrote symphonies that were not just longer, but structurally less in the great symphonic tradition of the 18th and 19th centuries. Accordingly, perhaps, this was the one symphony by Shostakovich that Toscanini conducted repeatedly and with obvious sympathy and understanding. While a very different conductor, Stokowski, whose recording it was that I've just been listening to, could bring out the emotional depth of the slow movement and the slow second theme of the finale.

This is a symphony just packed with musical as well as expressive ideas. In the finale, Shostakovich brings back the main theme of the first movement in a form sufficiently varied that it doesn't hit you in the face, as with Franck, but is eventually recognizable for what it is. And toward the end, the music stops and the timpani alone play the first notes of the trumpet theme in the slow movement (in the rhythm of a funeral march), inverted. Even if you don't recognize the structural connection, what a coup this is!

Here are the slow movement and the finale, which is to follow it without a break:


John Francis

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Re: Best "First" symphonies

Post by Jack Kelso » Wed Jan 05, 2011 10:07 am

RebLem wrote:
Heck148 wrote:
hollowman wrote:Which Beethoven 1 is best?
Toscanini/NBC
Reiner/CSO
Abbado/BPO
IMNSHO, Solti is definitely best in both the first two symphonies, but you should be warned he does have a controversial POV of them. He doesn't see them as mere study symphonies written as practice before the Eroica; he sees them as fully mature Beethoven symphonies entitled to stand proudly alongside the others. For the more conventional view, I like Szell.
Try Sawallisch why don't you? My favorite complete set. He's stupendous for ALL nine. Each work gets a performance as though it were Beethoven's best.....but nothing is overdone or overstated.

Tschüß,
Jack
"Schumann's our music-maker now." ---Robert Browning

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Re: Best "First" symphonies

Post by starrynight » Wed Jan 05, 2011 1:24 pm

Jack Kelso wrote:Two of the very finest "First Symphonies" which are little-known are those of Robert Volkmann in D Minor, op. 44 and Hermann Goetz in F Major, op. 9.
I've liked Volkmann in the past, but not Goetz so much.

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Re: Best "First" symphonies

Post by Heck148 » Wed Jan 05, 2011 8:31 pm

John F wrote:Several have mentioned Shostakovich's first symphony. I happened on a broadcast of it just now, after not hearing it for years. What an extraordinary achievement, not just as a major symphonist's first effort, fully mature and speaking with his own voice, but because Shostakovich was under 20 and still a conservatory student when he wrote it.
I fully agree with John F's appraisal of Shostakovich Sym #1. it is amazingly original and inventive, yet still maintains a very distinct "classical" symphony format...
very powerful and expressive, and technically taut and well-organized, for the reasons cited.
Marvelously imaginative scoring adds so much, and further shows the genius that was already bursting forth in the young Shostakovich...

and this was a "student" piece!! Wow!! :shock: :)

PS: John, I just want to add - we don't always agree on musical matters, intepretations or whatever - but I must compliment you on your postings; your offerings are always extremely well written - well organized, developed and very articulate.
they are a pleasure to read, regardless of whether we agree or not. :)
they are an ourtstanding contribution to this board.

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Re: Best "First" symphonies

Post by Chalkperson » Wed Jan 05, 2011 8:40 pm

Heck148 wrote:PS: John, I just want to add - we don't always agree on musical matters, intepretations or whatever - but I must compliment you on your postings; your offerings are always extremely well written - well organized, developed and very articulate.
they are a pleasure to read, regardless of whether we agree or not. :)
they are an ourtstanding contribution to this board.
Absolutely, John truly is an outstanding Contributor...
Sent via Twitter by @chalkperson

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Re: Best "First" symphonies

Post by John F » Wed Jan 05, 2011 11:30 pm

Chalkperson wrote:
Heck148 wrote:John, I just want to add - we don't always agree on musical matters, intepretations or whatever - but I must compliment you on your postings; your offerings are always extremely well written - well organized, developed and very articulate.
they are a pleasure to read, regardless of whether we agree or not. :)
they are an ourtstanding contribution to this board.
Absolutely, John truly is an outstanding Contributor...
May I quote you? :) Thanks! One does what one can.
John Francis

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