[Smt-talk] Ranking Ludwig's symphonies (was: Happy Birthday)

art samplaski agsvtp at hotmail.com
Wed Dec 18 07:33:54 PST 2013

Stephen Jablonsky wondered why LvB's 4th seems to live in "a quiet

oblivion" compared to its temporally closest siblings. My opinion: it's

simply like one of those traffic jams one hits upon for which there is

no visible cause--everyone grinds to a halt, you inch along for a while,

then everyone speeds up again. In other words, it's a traffic jam just

for the sake of being a traffic jam; and like Jupiter's Great Red Spot,

has no reason ever to stop (other than, by 3am there's usually too

little traffic to sustain it). Likewise, the 4th doesn't get programmed

simply because nobody programs it. I'm pretty sure that anyone

programming _any_ Beethoven symphony will get noticeably higher

ticket sales than for, say, _Miraculous Mandarin_... and CERtainly

higher than anything by Ahnald.:)


>Just for the fun of it, can you put Beethoven's symphonies in

>order [of] greatness (if that is even possible)?

The radio show _Performance Today_ about 10-11 years ago did a week

devoted to the things; and their guest conductor playing tour guide (I

forget who) said something to the effect of, "There are 8 Beethoven

symphonies... and then there's The Ninth."


I personally don't believe you can do a meaningful ranking of them

individually, but you can perhaps separate them akin to geological

strata: 1-2 are journeyman works--competent, nicely crafted, but Not

Noticeably Above(tm) the best mature works of Haydn or Mozart. At

the other end is The Ninth, off by itself--and I'm not sure that _that_

designation is more than retrospective accumulated cultural baggage.

(Read Slonimsky's _Lexicon of Musical Invective_ for, ahh, opinions

contemporary to its premiere.:) For 3-8, I very strongly doubt that you

could get any statistically significant differences, even if you *could*

devise some metric for "greatness."


>What do you say about 8?

For the record, 8 is one of my favorites. More user-friendly than 3, and

waaay less cloying than 6--although that last may be due to having

watched _Fantasia_ too often years ago. (And I'm pretty sure I'd like

4 more if I could hear it more...:)


Art Samplaski

Ithaca, NY


q.t.: If on the other hand you want to hear a truly -terrible- Beethoven

piece, make yourself sit through _Leonora #2_. It's exactly the same

as L3--save that, like Lennie's rewriting the 1st mvt. of K550 for one

of his Norton Lectures to be utterly 4+4+4+..., it is SO pathetically

square re phrase rhythm as to border on torture and/or parody. The

two of them would make a textbook case re shaping phrases for a

form/analysis class, save that some lawyer might argue it constituted

student abuse--and definitely *teacher* abuse to have to go through

it year after year!
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