It’s been a long, strange gap between top 10 lists here at Everything But the Music, mostly because I like to tell myself that I’m busy and don’t have as much time as I’d like to dedicate to writing. The truth is that I’m lazy and these are a lot of work to compile, fun as they may be. At any rate, with the incredible success the previous lists enjoyed (tens of page views!), I figured now was as good a time as any to dive back in and give the fans what they want, or perhaps the exact opposite of what they want depending on your viewpoint. Without further ado, here it is: the definitive, inarguable list of the ten best symphonies numbered 2. Continue reading
The big-time is YouTube, BTW. A fine performance of the Tschaikovsky Pathetique. I used to gig with them, and it was a blast. It looks like most of the band is still the same, which is a tribute to the organization. Kudos to them. Enjoy.
Countless works have been composed musically representing ad astra per aspera (“through hardships to the stars”); oddly enough, a number of the most popular of these are symphonies numbered 5. Mahler’s epic Fifth takes us from the darkness of the opening funeral march in C# minor to the radiant Rondo-Finale in D major; Shostakovich’s immensely popular Fifth plunges through 45 minutes of brooding intensity and builds to a crushingly optimistic climax in C major (even if it seems like a Stalinist ventriloquist act); Mendelssohn’s Reformation Symphony goes from a first movement that sounds like a march to the Gates of Hell to a luminous orchestral shower of A Mighty Fortress is Our God. Of course, the gold standard for this musical trajectory (and an awful lot of other things, too) is the Fifth of Beethoven. But no symphony makes it quite as obvious as Tschaikovsky’s magical Fifth. Continue reading
When I first thought about a countdown of the best symphonies numbered four, I sort of assumed it would flow roughly as naturally as the countdown of symphonies numbered five. I was wrong. What an unbelievably crowded field. Normally I would be inclined to use the “honorable mention” as an excuse to list something that may not immediately leap to mind (as in the Don Gillis Symphony no. 5 ½ on the previous list). But when I made my little chart, there was no room for half-assed attempts at getting Mozart 40 or Haydn 94 or 104, or The Poem of Ecstasy on the list, which kind of blows my mind. Obviously the pool of possibilities swells with the inclusion of Brahms and Schumann, but wait until this thing is done and you see who got left off altogether. Without further hyperbole… Continue reading
A few years ago, some friends and I devised an NCAA-style bracket tournament to determine the greatest composer of all-time through a rigorous series of discussions. The overwhelming majority of humans would likely declare that arguing over who was better/more important between Ravel and Schoenberg is a pointless waste of time. Just because they’re correct doesn’t mean it still can’t have benefits; talking about music, no matter how unusually, is far from pointless.
It is with that same general spirit in mind that I invite you into my world of randomly ranking things like best symphonies based solely on their number. It probably seems like a ridiculous idea, and it is, but it still gets you thinking about great music, and ultimately that’s good. Read this and think about it. Even better, listen to the music and rate for yourself. Think of me as a cult leader and classical music as the cyanide Kool-Aid. Do it now. Continue reading
Somewhere between the world of Euro-retreads (Haitink, Boulez, Muti, Abbado, Chailly, etc.) and the new breed of pseudo-prodigy (Dudamel, Nelsons, Jurowski, Ticciati, etc.) lies a nether-world of conducting populated by the chronically under-appreciated. They don’t have exciting hair. They don’t have Johnny Cash’s Live from Folsom Prison wardrobe. They weren’t the brightest stars in the firmament 30 years ago enabling them to trade on their great Firebird recording from 1983 to this very day.
They give consistently great performances. And they do it in the kind of anonymity usually afforded Franciscan monks or Katie Holmes after Scientology. Continue reading