A symphony that shook the world!
All right, so the subject line was a tad hyperbolic. I'm actually blogging about an article in The Guardian by conductor Mark Elder called "Five Symphonies That Changed the Art Form". The earliest of them, Haydn's Symphony No. 22, "The Philosopher" of 1764, comes up during the 10:00 hour Wednesday morning on WFCR. Before works like this, the symphony was mostly a modest form, little more than an opera overture broken off from its opera. But from its striking slow and solemn opening, with horns (both French and English) playing what sounds like a church hymn, to its whirlwind finale (he must have had some great horn players at Esterházy), Haydn makes this symphony a playground for his inexhaustible invention. Of course, Haydn and many other composers wrote more ambitious and "significant" symphonies later on. But there's something especially compelling about great works from early in a genre's history, before the rules get made and when the composers can make it up as they go along.
By the way, both Elder and Guardian critic Tom Service got to put together their list of important symphonies for the Guardian piece. Not to be outdone, here's my list of what I consider the most "symphonic" symphonies, the one whose integrity, grandeur and sense of inevitability represent the form at its best.
Haydn: Symphony No. 104, "London"
Mozart: Symphony No. 41, "Jupiter"
Beethoven: Symphony No. 5
Schubert: Symphony No. 9, "Great C Major"
Schumann: Symphony No. 3, "Rhenish"
Brahms: Symphony No. 4
Bruckner: Symphony No. 7
Franck: Symphony in D minor
Dvořák: Symphony No. 9, "From the New World"
Mahler: Symphony No. 5
Nielsen: Symphony No. 4, "Inextinguishable"
Sibelius: Symphony No. 5
Roy Harris: Symphony No. 3
William Schuman: Symphony No. 3
Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 5
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 10
Your additions to (or subtractions from) the list are welcome.