• If you had to pick just nine symphonies…


What is so fascinating about making lists? As if we could fit as many dreams as days we have lived in a little succession of favorites. Anyway, the purpose of this post is to suggest a little game to you. Let’s consider a list of nine. Why that number? Well, nine has been a magical number of sorts for symphonies ever since Beethoven wrote that many and stopped.  Mahler wrote at least that many.  Bruckner kind of did.  Sibelius did too, as long as you count “Kullervo” in the mix (I don’t).  Haydn, Mozart, and Hovhaness passed number nine early in their lives.  Brahms, Mendelssohn, Schumann didn’t finish even half. Tchaikovsky almost….

So here is a game to keep myself entertained and at the same time give all of us an opportunity to share good music. CK Dexter Haven decided that his nine masterpieces were:

  • Corigliano:  Symphony No. 1
  • Sibelius:  Symphony No. 2
  • Mahler:  Symphony No. 3 
  • Shostakovich:  Symphony No. 4
  • Prokofiev:  Symphony No. 5 
  • Tchaikovsky:  Symphony No. 6Pathétique 
  • Bruckner:  Symphony No. 7
  • Haydn:  Symphony No. 8, Le soir
  • Beethoven:  Symphony No. 9 


On the New American Symphonies, Frank J. Oteri has completed the following list:

  • Ellen Taaffe Zwilich: Symphony No. 1
  • Colin McPhee: Symphony No. 2
  • Florence Price: Symphony No 3
  • Charles Ives: Symphony No. 4
  • Bohuslav Martinů: Symphony No. 5
  • Howard Hanson: Symphony No. 6
  • Henry Cowell: Symphony No. 7
  • Roger Sessions: Symphony No. 8
  • William Schuman: Symphony No. 9“Le fosse Ardeatine” 


So friends, the game is not to find pitfalls in either list, but rather have a good time listening to them and sharing some ideas about composers and compositions. To my good friends composers out there, the challenge is to come up with a list for the first 15 years of this century!

Next time in this «Symphony Game» Series, we will discuss Corigliano, Zwilich, and their respective First Symphonies. Perhaps that’s the best part of having a list, it is useful as a start point. Or in a more dramatic fashion, Alea iacta est.

If you had to pick just nine symphonies…
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