Crystal's list

People keep asking for my 100 Symphonies in 100 Days List! Here it is with the recordings I picked and what I thought about them. If you want to do a similar challenge, you don't have to listen to the same symphonies. For example, we had 50 pick your own and just set a certain # of symphonies by each composer (or era or gender, for example).

Less Than a Week to Go!!!

I never blogged in August. It was a very busy month. At the beginning of the month I listened to composers from "National Schools". From 1830-1950, as "modern nation states emerged, music for many composers became a means of asserting their national identity."

Some more popular composers that can fall into this category:

  • Elgar (British)
  • Sibelius (Scandinavian)
  • Vaughn Williams (British)
  • Rachmaninoff (Russian)

Many of these composers used folk music in their classical compositions. New composers I found and liked:

  • Glinka (Russian)
  • Carl Nielsen (Scandinavian) He is a new favorite of mine!

I am in the modern period---and I'm enjoying it more than I thought!

Paula M.....

Romantic Era 1810-1920

For the past month I've been listening to the Romantic Era symphonies. The Romantic time period seems to range from 1810-1920 (depending on your source). This time period has nothing to do with "romance", but a period that different "trends" appear in classical music: emotion, longer melodies, complex harmonies, bigger orchestras, pianos, fascination with nature and the Gothic/supernatural.

Some composers land in this era----and there's another part of this era I will talk about next week: the nationalists. So the following lists are what I have researched and decided for the Romantic Era----but some of these overlap into the nationalists.

Early Romantic Composers

  • Schubert
  • Mendelssohn
  • Schumann
  • Berlioz
  • Liszt
Late Romantic Composers
  • Brahms
  • Bruckner
  • Dvorak
  • Elgar
  • Mahler

I look forward to listening to specific nationalist composers --- and then on to the 20th century.

Paula M.....

Fifty down, fifty more symphonies to go!

Whew! After slowing down a bit this past weekend, I have picked it up again and have listened to 50 symphonies!
Some highlights:

  • Schubert's Unfinished and Great C Major: After listening to these two symphonies, I appreciate Schubert even more. He's emotional.
  • Mahler's Symphony No. 2 and No. 6: Some day I hope to hear these pieces performed live.
  • Shostakovich's Symphony no. 3 and no. 5 and no. 9: I plan to listen to more----I am not sure if I will listen to all 15 symphonies!
  •  Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique
  • Liszt's Dante Symphony (I know it's more of a tone poem, but I like it!)
  • Borodin's Second Symphony
Next week I will write more on the Romantic period.

Paula M.....

The Classical Period

I chose to listen to my 100 symphonies in a chronological order. For the past three weeks I have been in the Classical period, listening to LOTS of Haydn, Beethoven, and Mozart. Haydn will be my composer that I will listen to when I want to be jovial. Mozart's symphonies really didn't do too much for me. And now I appreciate Beethoven and all of his amazing symphonies, especially 5, 7 and 9.

Other composers I listened to:

  • Haydn's brother Michael Haydn
  •  Louis Spohr
  • Samuel Wesley  
  • Muzio Clementi
  • Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf  
This weekend begins the Romantic period with some Schubert. (I am also going to listen Shostakovich's Symphonies 5 and 9 for some variety.)

Paula M......

Forgotten Russians: Vasily Kalinnikov

Vasily Kalinnikov was a Russian composer, born in 1866. Although he isn't particularly well-known outside of Russia, he was acquainted with some heavy-hitters, including Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff. He had modest success in music, but was never particularly well-off. Late in life Rachmaninoff discovered him living in poverty, and hastily made arrangements to get some of Kalinnikov's music published. It brought in some money, but Kalinnikov didn't live long enough to see much of it, dying just before his 35th birthday.

My grandfather heard the first symphony of Kalinnikov played on KUSC (Los Angeles) years and years ago. He immediately fell in love with it and it has stuck with him throughout the years since then. I think I enjoy this piece more for the sentimental value attached to my grandfather than anything else. Still, it's a pleasant work (and Kalinnikov's most famous to boot) that could have broad appeal with a bit more exposure.

Aurally it sounds like a symphony Tchaikovsky never got around to writing - perhaps nestled between the second and third symphonies. There two themes introduced in the first movement movement, the first in the violins and the second in the cellos. These themes are recalled again in the final movement, where the symphony brightens from G-minor to G-major. In between is a delicate second movement with oboes soaring over gentle chords from the harp, giving way to a gypsy-sounding dance midway through.

While I don't find the piece adventurous enough to put in in "Dave's Top Ten", the catchiness of the melodies, the harmless (but not bland) orchestration and overall pleasantness of the work will ensure it is kept in my library for the foreseeable future. You're welcome grandpa.

Paula's Thoughts

I am not a composer. My thoughts and reactions to the symphonies will be "emotional". All art forms evoke an emotion. So you will not see me commenting on themes and bridges. I am approaching the 100 symphonies chronologically. And so I have listened to two Haydn, two Beethoven, and two Mozart symphonies. (I am leaving the pre-1750 because I am still having a discussion with my two music nerd friends if the true symphony form existed before 1750.) I like working to Haydn. I like driving to Mozart. And I just like listening to Beethoven. He is familiar to all of us. I will be staying in the Classical era for about two weeks. Unless a piece makes me want to write, I am signing off until the Romantic era. Paula M.....

The List

And now what you've been waiting for - The List!

First off, 50 symphonies from standard repertoire composers:

Beethoven (3)
Brahms (1)
Bruckner (2)
Dvorak (2)
Elgar (1)
Haydn (10)
Ives (2)
Mahler (3)
Mendelssohn (1)
Mozart (5)
Prokofiev (2)
Schubert (2)
Schumann (1)
Sibelius (2)
Shostakovich (5)
Stravinsky (3)
Tchaikovsky (1)
Vaughan Williams (3)

Then ten symphonies in three different categories:
Written before 1750 (3)
Written after 1999 (3)
Written by a female composer (4)

Finally, 40 listener-choice symphonies!

Check back here often to see our notes and progress.


Welcome to 100 Symphonies in 100 Days! People who are participating in this challenge will post here on occasion, detailing their progress, reviewing recordings, or recording random thoughts as they crank through their list.

The list itself is the result of random conversation over tacos and scribbling on a placemat. We came up with a list of "standard repertoire" composers, which accounts for half of the list. There are no specific symphonies specified - it's up to the listener to choose which! But we encourage a listen of the less-popular works, as opposed to yet another go at the Beethoven 7th.

After the 50 "standard repertoire" composers, we require three symphonies written pre-1750 and three symphonies written post-2000. This is to make sure you hit the very outer fringes of symphonic repertoire. We also require four symphonies written by female composers.

The remaining 40 symphonies are of your own choosing! Look far and wide. You can continue with more of the standard repertoire composers, hit up the B-list composers, or go ultra-obscure!

The official start date is June 1st, so get your MP3s, CDs and vinyl ready! We plan on meeting once a month for a quick review and discussion, plus some listening. Follow our progress here in the meantime!