The Los Angeles blogger CK Dexter Haven has devised an amusing game: pick your favorite numbered symphonies, one through nine. Brian Lauritzen has added his own entry, and there are sure to be others. I have decided to make the bold choice of omitting Beethoven — he gets enough publicity — and am offering this mildly eccentric list:
Nielsen, Symphony No. 1
Ives, Symphony No. 21
Lutosławski, Symphony No. 32
Brahms, Symphony No. 43
Ustvolskaya, Symphony No. 5
Vaughan Williams, Symphony No. 6
Sibelius, Symphony No. 7
Schubert, Symphony No. 8
Mahler, Symphony No. 9
It's painful to leave out Bruckner, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Martinů, and my beloved Eduard Tubin, among many others, but so the chips fall in one neck of the woods.
1. These first two could easily have been reversed. Also, I was sorely tempted to include Popov's astounding First.
2. An agonizing number, with the Eroica, the Roussel, and the great American Thirds. But the Lutosławski enchants me so deeply every time I hear it.
3. Another agonizing number, with Sibelius, Nielsen, and Shostakovich at their most intense. But the finale of the Brahms obliterates all.