Top 50 Favorite/Best Classical – Honorable Mention – Beethoven Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125

I am giving an honorable mention to Beethoven for his final symphony, the 9th in D minor. It used to be at the top of my list when I was younger. I really loved the performance with the San Jose Symphony Orchestra back in 1988 and again in 1994 when I lived in California. As I’ve grown, my enjoyment of the symphony has waned considerably. 

Beethoven composed this symphony over three years from 1822-1824 and had it performed to grand success on 7 May 1824 in Vienna. By this time, Beethoven was nearly completely deaf and could not hear the audience applauding his work. The symphony was a major influence in future composers and set a high bar for other composers to reach. It is the first symphony to use a chorus and solo singers, and it is easily the longest symphony of the Classical and early Romantic periods. The modern CD’s length was determined by the length of Furtwängler’s recording from 1951, which was 74 minutes long. 

For me what works are the first two movements and the fourth movement. I’ve tried to like the third movement, but it is a bore and a chore to get through. The pacing is languid and slow. The first movement is in sonata form without repeating the exposition. The second movement is the scherzo with a trio and has a good pulsating rhythm to it with some fugal elements. 

The fourth movement is a mixed bag for me, because the themes, particularly the gorgeous primary theme as done through the strings in a lovely fugue before reaching a climax with the whole orchestra. And then the vocalists come in. 

The main drawback to the symphony is actually that it is too long. Much like Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, there are many moments throughout Beethoven’s 9th that slow the momentum down, particularly the third movement. The fourth movement has issues with its construction. In terms of form, it’s not quite clear what it is. It affects how well the musical ideas flow from one to another throughout the movement. A lot of the propulsive power of the main theme is lost halfway through the movement, again similar to the problems of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2. 

In the end, however, Beethoven’s work on Symphony No. 9 deserves all the acclaim he has gotten. Particularly because of its influence upon Western culture. Here, for instance, is one of the most important performances of the symphony, on Christmas Day in 1989 in Berlin, Germany, not long after the Berlin Wall fell and East Germany and West Germany were no more. The great Leonard Bernstein conducted performers from several groups from both sides of the wall in perfect harmony. Ode to Joy indeed. 

#12 – Stravinsky Le Sacre du Printemps

#13 – Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue

#14 – Mozart Symphony No. 41 in C major, K. 551

#15 – Coltrane My Favorite Things

#16 – Dvorak Symphony No. 7 in D minor, Op. 70

#17 – Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30

#18 – Mozart Don Giovanni, K. 527

#19 – Liszt Les Preludes, S. 97

#20 – Mozart Le Nozze di Figaro, K. 492

#21 – Tchaikovsky Swan Lake, Op. 20 

#22 – Mahler Symphony No. 2 in C minor

#23 – Tchaikovsky String Quartet No. 1 in D major, Op. 11

#24 – Williams Empire Strikes Back

#25 – Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5 in Eb major, Op. 73

#26 – Bernstein West Side Story

#27 – Enescu – Octet for Strings in C major, Op. 7

#28 – Shostakovich String Quartet No. 8 in C minor, Op. 110

#29 – Mussorgsky Night on Bald Mountain

#30 – Webber Phantom of the Opera

#31 – Prokofiev Alexander Nevsky

#32 – Chopin Nocturne in Bb minor, Op. 9, No. 1

#33 – Debussy Images, Book 1, L110

#34 – Debussy Pour Le Piano, L. 95

#35 – Chaminade Guitare, Op. 32

#36 – Chopin Berceuse in Db major, Op. 57

#37 – Boulanger Nocturne pour violon et piano

#38 – Schönberg Les Miserables

#39 – Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18

#40 – Miranda Hamilton

#41 – Strauss Salomé

#42 – Britten Peter Grimes

#43 – Loewe My Fair Lady

#44 – Liszt Mephisto Waltzes

#45 – Webber Evita

#46 – Poledouris Conan The Barbarian

#47 – Bernstein Trouble in Tahiti

#48 – Beethoven Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67

#49 – Chaminade La Lisonjera, Op. 50

#50 – Beethoven Coriolan Overture, Op. 62

Honorable Mention

Beethoven Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125

Tchaikovsky Nutcracker

Jobim Girl From Ipanema

Shostakovich Suite for Variety Orchestra

Schubert Symphony No. 9 in C major, D 944

Saariaho L’Amour de Loin

Schubert String Quartet No. 14 “Death and the Maiden”

Desmond Take Five

Wagner Die Walküre 

Puccini Tosca

Davis So What

Stravinsky Petroushka 

Wagner Tristan Und Isolde

Tchaikovsky Serenade for Strings

Williams Raiders of the Lost Ark

Verdi Aïda

Schoenberg Verklärte Nacht

Grisey Les espaces acoustiques

Gade – Octet for 4 violins, 2 violas, 2 violoncellos in F major, Op. 17

Schubert – Symphony No. 8 in B minor, D759

Leave comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *.