Charles J. Smith cjsmith at buffalo.edu
Mon Dec 16 16:05:03 PST 2013

> Just for the fun of it, can you put Beethoven's symphonies in order greatness (if that is even possible)?

Why would you want to? Would it be a useful exercise to rank your friends in order of interestingness, intelligence, or looks? Your children (or pets) in order of how much you love them? Doesn't sound like fun, at all, at least not to me...

The analogy between pieces of music and friends/beloved folks does not seem at all trivial or facetious to me. (Except that pieces will seldom betray or disappoint you the way that people all too often do.) Getting to know a piece is much like the process of getting to know a person—starting by applying categorical descriptions (symphony, major-to-major-dominant sonata form, Bb major, and so on), but then moving past those categories as soon as possible, as individualities become unignorably apparent. And soon each becomes someone with whom you have a unique relationship—usually not so much better or worse than the relationship you have with someone else, just different.

Oh, and by the way (though this list really isn't the place for personal opinions), I've always thought the 4th was a more consistently satisfying piece than either the 3rd or 5th, as remarkable (and flawed, mostly in their final movements) as both of those wonderful symphonies are....


Prof. Charles J. Smith
Slee Chair of Music Theory & Director of Graduate Studies
Director, Slee Institute of Tonal Harmony (420 Baird Hall)
Academic office: 410 Baird Hall
Office Phone: 716-645-0639
cjsmith at buffalo.edu

Mailing address;
Music Department, 220 Baird Hall
University at Buffalo
Buffalo, NY 14260
Department Fax: 716-645-3824

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