My fifth favorite symphony composer is certainly not Haydn. More and more, for me he is number one. Not only could he write a great symphony, he could do it over and over and over again, each time different. In fact, he did it one hundred and six times. Really, really well. Here is a sample, the "Drumroll" Symphony from the twelve he wrote to perform in London:
And he is not Mozart, either. Mozart couldn't manage as many great symphonies as Haydn, partly because he just didn't have the time. And some of those really early ones are not so great. But still, he did manage to write fifty symphonies and some of them are terrific, like the "Linz" that he wrote in four days. Mozart is number two.
Not Sibelius either. I got hooked on Sibelius early on with the Symphony No. 2 and though he wrote several other great ones, I still think that the first movement of the second is just wondrous and the last movement equally so. Sibelius is number three. Lenny and the Vienna Phillies:
Now it gets difficult so I've been listening to the last two side by side and I'm surprised to discover that my fifth favorite composer is also not Schubert, who comes in as number four. He only wrote eight symphonies (the Great C Major is not number nine because he never wrote a number seven), but the last two are just sublime and the earlier ones are pretty good too. Here is the "Unfinished" which only has two movements.
Which means, of course that my fifth favorite symphony composer is, wait for it, Beethoven! (Well, ok, I almost said Shostakovich,,,) Yes, I'm surprised as well. A few years ago I would have said that either Beethoven or Shostakovich were my favorite symphony composers, but I've changed my mind.
Mind you, when it comes to piano sonatas and string quartets, LvB is still number one.
What do you think?
UPDATE: I posted this too soon, forgetting to put up a Beethoven symphony and say why he is number five. Here is his Symphony No. 3 with Lenny and Vienna Phillies again:
The problem with Beethoven and this symphony in particular is that this is the moment when a lot of the things I dislike about the 19th century in music began: foremost are the bombast and the melodrama. I think that this is the piece in which they appear, pretty much for the first time, in symphonic music.