The Symphony Project

by Glenn on March 2, 2016

The purpose of this post is so that I can link to it to explain a long-term learning project I am engaged with.

I am making a tour of the world of the symphony as I read Michael Steinberg’s The Symphony: A Listener’s Guide (Oxford: Oxford University Pres­s, 1995), which consists primarily of program notes originally written for the Boston and San Francisco Symphony Orchestras. The book includes short chapters about the 118 symphonies (from 36 composers) he chose to include.

I don’t know if Steinberg would call these the 118 best symphonies. What I do know is that while the symphonies are listed in numerical order by composer in alphabetical order, in his introduction Steinberg refers to both the “necessaries” (for example, Beethoven’s Nine and Brahms’s Four among others that “take a lot of room”) and the “electives,”  by which we may conclude that while this is a sort of canon, all of the symphonies are not on equal footing and others writing a book on the symphony might have a different list.

Originally I planned simply to read the book, which would be fine with works that I know well (Elgar’s Symphony No. 1 and many by Mahler and Beethoven, for example), but as I considered the idea of reading about music for which I had no aural reference, I realized I needed to expand the scope of things a bit so that in addition to reading about a particular symphony (whether familiar or not) I would also listen to it and reflect on the experience.

As I write blog posts about each particular symphony, I don’t want to continually explain the nature of this project. Instead, I’ll link to this post.

This project is going to take a while, which is just fine because I have a tracking system.

As part of my study I’m creating a chart of the symphonists (see First Performance Dates) to help me visualize when some of these things happened. It’s a work in progress and tends to lag a bit behind the blog.

Beethoven
Symphony No. 1 | Study #11
Symphony No. 2 | Study #12
Symphony No. 3, Eroica | Study #13
Symphony No. 4 | Study #14
Symphony No. 5 | Study #16
Symphony No. 6, Pastoral | Study #17
Symphony No. 7 | Study #18
Symphony No. 8 | Study #19
Symphony No. 9 | Study #20

Berlioz
☑ 
Symphonie fantastique | Study #21

Brahms
Symphony No. 1 | Study #49
☐ Symphony No. 2
☐ Symphony No. 3
☐ Symphony No. 4

Bruckner
Symphony No. 4, Romantic | Study #31
Symphony No. 5 | Study #40
Symphony No. 6 | Study #44
☑  Symphony No. 7 | Study #46
☐ Symphony No. 8
☐ Symphony No. 9

Copland
Short Symphony (No. 2) | Study # 55

Dvořák
Symphony No. 6 | Study #29
Symphony No. 7 | Study #50
Symphony No. 8 | Study #51
Symphony No. 9, From the New World | Study #52

Elgar
Symphony No. 1 | Study #1
Symphony No. 2 | Study #38

Górecki
Symphony No. 3, Symphony of Sorrowful Songs | Study #54

Hanson
☐ Symphony No. 4, Requiem

Harbison
☐ Symphony No. 2

Hartmann
Adagio (Symphony No. 2) | Study #10
Symphony No. 8 | Study #58

Haydn
☐ Symphony No. 45, Farewell
Symphony No. 64, Tempora mutantur | Study #48
☐ Symphony No. 86
Symphony No. 88 | Study #2
Symphony No. 92, Oxford | Study #9
☐ Symphony No. 93
☐ Symphony No. 94, Surprise
☐ Symphony No. 95
☐ Symphony No. 96
☐ Symphony No. 97
☐ Symphony No. 98
☐ Symphony No. 99
☐ Symphony No. 100, Military
☐ Symphony No. 101, Clock
Symphony No. 102 | Study #15
☐ Symphony No. 103, Drum Roll
☐ Symphony No. 104

Hindemith
Symphony, Mathis der Maler | Study #53

Honegger
Symphonie liturgique (No. 3)
☐ Symphony No. 5, Di tre re

Ives
Symphony No. 4 | Study #30

Mahler
☐ Symphony No. 1
☐ Symphony No. 2, Resurrection
☑ 
Symphony No. 3 | Study #47
☐ Symphony No. 4
☐ Symphony No. 5
☐ Symphony No. 6
☐ Symphony No. 7
☐ Symphony No. 8
☐ Symphony No. 9

Martinů
Fantaisies symphoniques (No. 6) | Study #56

Mendelssohn
Symphony No. 3, Scotch | Study #57
Symphony No. 4, Italian | Study #43

Mozart
Symphony No. 35, Haffner | Study #32
Symphony No. 36, Linz | Study #33
Symphony No. 38, Prague | Study #34
Symphony No. 39 | Study #35
Symphony No. 40 | Study #36
Symphony No. 41, Jupiter | Study #37

Nielsen
Symphony No. 4, The Inextinguishable | Study #59
☐ Symphony No. 5
☐ Symphony No. 6

Piston
☐ Symphony No. 2
☐ Symphony No. 6

Prokofiev
Classical Symphony (No. 1)
☐ Symphony No. 5
☐ Symphony No. 6

Rachmaninoff
Symphony No. 2 | Study #4
☐ Symphony No. 3

Schmidt
Symphony No. 4 | Study #3

Schoenberg
☐ Chamber Symphony No. 1

Schubert
Unfinished Symphony
☐ Great C-major Symphony

Schuman
☐ Symphony No. 3
☐ Symphony No. 6

Schumann
☐ Symphony No. 1, Spring
☐ Symphony No. 2
☐ Symphony No. 3, Rhenish
☐ Symphony No. 4

Sessions
☐ Symphony No. 2

Shostakovich
☑ 
Symphony No. 1 | Study #45
☐ Symphony No. 4
☐ Symphony No. 5
☐ Symphony No. 7, Leningrad
☐ Symphony No. 8
☐ Symphony No. 10
☐ Symphony No. 15

Sibelius
☑ Symphony No. 1 | Study #22
☑ Symphony No. 2 | Study #23
☑ Symphony No. 3 | Study #24
☑ Symphony No. 4 | Study #25
☑ Symphony No. 5 | Study #26
☑ Symphony No. 6 | Study #27
☑ Symphony No. 7 | Study #28

Stravinsky
☐ Symphony in C
☐ Symphony in Three Movements

Tchaikovsky
Symphony No. 4 | Study #39
Symphony No. 5 | Study #41
Symphony No. 6, Pathétique | Study #42

Tippett
☐ Symphony No. 2
☐ Symphony No. 4

Vaughan Williams
Symphony in F minor (No. 4) | Study #6
Symphony in D major (No. 5) | Study #7
Symphony in E minor (No. 6) | Study #8

Walton
Symphony No. 1 | Study #5

 

17 comments

[…] been having my own Mozart Festival the last few weeks. There is a to-do list aspect to this symphony project—you’re checking things off a list—I expected to read the chapters for and listen to the six […]

by Symphony Studies Nos. 32–37 of 118 | Mozart: Symphonies 35, 36, 38, 39, 40, 41 « glennaustin.com on 5 March 2016 at 7:55 am. #

[…] Ilyich Tchaikovsky and his Symphony No. 4 in f minor, Opus 36, as I continue my journey through Michael Steinberg’s The […]

by Symphony Study No. 39 | Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4 « glennaustin.com on 13 March 2016 at 10:01 pm. #

[…] of the things Michael Steinberg does not do in The Symphony is spend much time trying to establish a hierarchy for the 118 symphonies he has included in his […]

by Symphony Study No. 40 | Bruckner: Symphony No. 5 « glennaustin.com on 17 March 2016 at 6:35 am. #

[…] I’ve heard the most. Hearing it the other night was a joy. Unlike the previous symphony in this exploration, Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No.5, which I can’t recall previously ever actually sitting […]

by Symphony Study No. 41 | Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5 « glennaustin.com on 20 March 2016 at 10:23 am. #

[…] of the questions I am thinking about in this study is How should a Christian relate to the symphonic art? That question could be taken a couple of […]

by Symphony Study 42: Tchaikovsky: Symphony 6 “Pathétique” « glennaustin.com on 26 March 2016 at 9:27 pm. #

[…] The Berlin Philharmonic’s Digital Concert Hall has an archived performance of Bruckner’s Sixth Symphony. When I saw that it was paired with Mendelssohn’s Fourth (Italian) Symphony I realized I could watch the concert and check two symphonies off my list. […]

by Symphony Studies Nos. 43 & 44 | Mendelssohn No. 4 and Bruckner No. 6 « glennaustin.com on 10 April 2016 at 3:07 pm. #

[…] but this one feels different for some reason. I’m not sure if each Bruckner symphony that Michael Steinberg includes on his list is simply better than the last one or that I’m learning to appreciate them […]

by Symphony Study No. 46 | Bruckner Symphony No. 7 in E Major « glennaustin.com on 8 May 2016 at 8:43 am. #

[…] was going to save Mahler for the end of this little study, but the Oregon Symphony performed Mahler’s Third last weekend and I didn’t want to give up the […]

by Symphony Study No. 47 | Mahler: No. 3 « glennaustin.com on 30 May 2016 at 7:35 am. #

[…] re-engage with this symphony project, it seemed needful to listen to something more […]

by Symphony Study No. 48 | Haydn: No. 64 « glennaustin.com on 13 June 2016 at 10:19 pm. #

[…] this past week, one of the things I haven’t done during this symphony study is to go back to a symphony I’ve checked off the list. I listen to particular symphony, […]

by Ormandy’s Sumptuous Take on Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony « glennaustin.com on 3 July 2016 at 10:46 am. #

[…] and inconsistent schedule. Two nights ago, it felt good to commit 36’ to another symphony on Michael Steinberg’s list, and one I don’t think I’ve ever heard […]

by Symphony Study No. 50 | Dvořák: No. 7 in d minor « glennaustin.com on 28 July 2016 at 10:13 am. #

[…] of the aspects of Michael Steinberg’s list of symphonies is that it includes works that are both entirely familiar and wholly unfamiliar. As you work […]

by Symphony Studies Nos. 51 & 52 | Dvořák No. 8 & 9 « glennaustin.com on 3 August 2016 at 7:22 am. #

[…] am fairly certain this is the first American composer I’ve encountered s0 far on Michael Steinberg’s list. I would have guessed that Copland’s Symphony No. 3, including its famous Fanfare for the […]

by Symphony Study 55 | Copland: Short Symphony (Symphony No. 2) « glennaustin.com on 30 October 2016 at 8:48 am. #

[…] not sure which is more delightful, Bohuslav Martinů’s music or the affection that Michael Steinberg seems to have for him. Steinberg met Martinů at Princeton as a senior while Martinů was on “a […]

by Symphony Study 56: Martinů: Fantaisies symphoniques (Symphony No. 6) « glennaustin.com on 22 December 2016 at 6:50 am. #

[…] first and third movements are rather mellow. Michael Steinberg says, “The Scotch is very much of a pianissimo symphony.” While the opening movement has a […]

by Symphony Study No 57 | Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 3 “Scotch” « glennaustin.com on 7 January 2017 at 9:08 pm. #

[…] symphony follows a two-movement plan with no break between movements. Michael Steinberg describes it this […]

by Symphony Study No. 58 | Hartmann Symphony No. 8 « glennaustin.com on 11 January 2017 at 2:33 pm. #

[…] Fourth Symphony, “The Inextinguishable,” I’ve reached the halfway point  in this little study of the symphony, working my way through Michael Steinberg’s listener’s guide. This reading and listening project […]

by Symphony Study No. 59 | Nielsen: Symphony No. 4 “The Inextinguishable” « glennaustin.com on 15 January 2017 at 7:50 am. #