Greatest Symphonies of All Time

plmilligan1968

What are the 10 Greatest Symphonies ever written? Don't agree with the list? Vote for an existing item you think should be ranked higher or if you are a logged in, add a new item for others to vote on or create your own version of this list.

The Top Ten

1
Beethoven's 9th (Choral) Symphony
Composed to perfection, Beethoven composed this symphony at the point of time when he was completely deaf. Not only does it contain a great depth in terms of energy and emotion as compared to other classical works at that time, it is a virtuosic piece requiring great skill to perform, since Beethoven managed to apply his revolutionizing of Baroque style and texture into this symphony. For example, the second movement, a complete sonata in the form of the trio, has a theme which is imitative throughout, and is to be played at a rather quick pace. Furthermore, this movement, as well as all the other movements are composed in such a way that they all appear to be linked strategically for the significance and representation of a whole. Nevertheless, this choral symphony allows him to express his depressed self particularly at the movements at the front, while at the forth, he teaches people about values such as brotherhood. Needless to say, this is a well-composed piece which is for all to listen and dive in to the world of the greatest pieces of music ever composed.
The first movement has a sublimity that hasn't - and cannot ever- be matched. From the simple main theme develops a highly cinematic and powerful feel that slowly descends into the deepest pits of despair, then comes back more mighty than ever.
The second movement is the liveliest of scherzos. It will astound you beyond comprehension.
The third is quite serene and gives you the image of a town in peace.
And now the massive finale. There's so much fire in this, more fire than the finale of Dvorak's 9th (Allegro con fuoco - "fast, with fire". ) It moves from fury to peace to fury to depression many times, but it's never too repetitive. The short reprise of each of the other movements creates such nostalgia in you all, and when the "Ode to Joy" rises into action, your heart will beat along with it. The coda is quite majestic, with a powerful ending that possesses your heartstrings.
As you can see, the first movement is by far my favorite. This symphony is, in my opinion, one of the greatest symphonies in existence. I've never seen ANY work to surpass it, not even Rach 2, with is equally enthralling.
Pure genius! Unconventional, and with an ebb and flow that challenges anyone who plays or listens to this superb piece. Could only be written by Beethoven, and is the closest thing to perfection that can be achived with a choral work.
[Newest]Great symphony, with "ode to joy" chorus. Amazing!

2Beethoven's 5th (Fate) Symphony
Defines this musical god! I love Beethoven; his having lived makes everyone else's life that much richer!
Its not the most well known symphony by chance. This is the greatest and most influential symphonic work ever written.

plmilligan1968

Perhaps, the most perfect and complete piece ever written for symphony orchestra. One can't take a single bar out of it.
[Newest]The four note hammer that commands the world's attention instantly!

3Dvorak's 9th (New World) Symphony
One of the most popular symphonies, for sure. Its melodic inventivness is beyond question. It didnÂ't become a firm favourite with audiences all over the world just for having been composed in the New World, although it certainly exhibits some of the melodic flavour of that place. It is however one of the first truly international symphonies, and that may well have contributed to its lasting popularity. A big favourite of mine forever.
The first movement from this symphony was the first piece I ever played with a full orchestra and I have to say it was something I will never forget. It is so magical and has a mood that is unparalleled. Not only is the first movement great, but all of the subsequent movements are great too. The fourth movement has to be one of, if not my favorite, movements of all time. I especially like to watch the recording when it is played for the Pope and conducted by Dudamel.
This is an incredible piece of work that consists of listening pleasure and stimulates the ears and begs for more. Dvorak use of tonality and structure of instruments is comparable to the great composers of all time.
[Newest]Such a beautiful symphony. The first time I heard the forth movement as part of the entire symphony I immediately recognized it. the movement filled me with great joy. It's a wonderful piece of art

4Tchaikovsky's 6th Symphony
By far the most passionate and heart-wrenching symphony I've ever heard. Tchaikovsky explores intense emotions in this one such as the soft love of a dying mother, sudden unfathomable loss and grief, contentment, galloping giddy hope, and the tragic inevitability of old age and ultimately death. One of the most vivid interpretations of the human condition ever written.
Best musical piece ever written. In one second, it has more emotion than the entire pop music.
This Symphony is much better than his No.4 I don't understand those music lovers who judge otherwise.
[Newest]I love him he's ma bae

5Mozarts 40th (Great) Symphony
This is one of the most eloquent and exquisite symphonic works ever written.

plmilligan1968

Passionate and perfectly structured and balanced. Mozart was by this time rightfully self-assured and probably deeply aware of his mastery of the form and language. I never tire of hearing any part of this symphony.
Although I love several Mozart's works, this is the first one I ever fell in love with and kept on remembering.
[Newest]Great for it's time, and you have to love it, but the Romantic symphonies outshine it.

6Beethoven's 3rd (Eroica) Symphony
Appeared, seemingly, out of nowhere. Nothing that preceded it hinted at this most revolutionary work. It's been my all-time favourite for over half a century.
More complex in structure than the 5th and certainly the most ground-breaking symphonic work for its time
This symphony has everything: drama, struggle, peace and sublime beauty all intervoven into an epic "tour de force". While listening to this peace you go through the whole spectrum of human emotions and at the end you feel satisfied. Amazing that a human being can create such a perfect piece of music.
[Newest]Beyond question this symphony is one of the most important symphonic milestones.

7Symphony No. 5 in D Minor, Op. 47 - Dmitri Shostakovich
One of the mightiest of pieces ever written with a great story behind it
All of it is brilliant, but the 3rd movement is, in my opinion, a level of genius unparalleled before or since in music.

8Brahms Symphony No. 4
The best way to view this Symphony is in terms of sheer craftsmanship. The complex and dense interplay of motives, in particular rising and falling thirds, is so seamless and downright clever, at times it's hard to believe that this is the work of a mere human being!
Dramatic and beautiful! The 4th movement is full of grace and dramatic feeling... The finale is the strongest moment in the romantic era!
Perhaps the most complex and dramatic yet moving and exciting piece of arts. Not as famous as Beethoven's 9th or 5th but it's a real Grand Finale of the whole Romantic Era.
[Newest]What can we say? An angel has visited us.

9Shostakovich's 5th Symphony
Can't even practice a single movement on either violin or viola without being moved to tears. Gets me every single time.
I have yet to find any music more emotionally charged than the third movement of this piece.
Whenever the Symphony reaches its climax I'm covered head to toe in goosebumps.
[Newest]The last movement is so powerful, great piece,

10Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony
A multitude of emotional progression masterfully done by one of Russia's greatest musical minds. With the first movement being a maelstrom of emotional prowess the second movements comes as a breath of calming fresh air the brings the piece back to emotional clarity.
Inspired by Beethoven's 5th, a Russian slant on the hand of fate.

plmilligan1968

YES! The 4th makes a list. The Tchaikovsky 4th may be the most underrated symphony of all orchestral works. Well known for so many other signature pieces, this work stands out in the Tchaikovsky repetoire. The feverish 4th movement stands out as one of the great finales.
[Newest]So much history encapsulated in one symphony! Definitely the most underrated symphony and my personal favorite.

The Contenders

11Symphony No. 1 in D Major - Gustav Mahler
Pure genius throughout
Mahler is the most underrated composer of all time
Finale is brilliant
Mahler is my favorite composer. This is one of his best symphonies, but my favorite is his 2nd and 5th. Great symphony!
Probably the greatest first ever -- yes, even over Brahms'

12Beethoven's 7th Symphony
Only down here because its not popular, consider listening to the 2nd movement if you're a noob and don't know why its good
The allegretto (2nd movement) wins my vote for best movement of any composer's symphony of all time.
2nd Movement is the most beautiful thing I've ever heard. This should be 1st on the list. Hands down.
[Newest]A classic of great beauty and rhythm

13Sibelius' 2nd Symphony
This symphony absolutely belongs to the very best and most wonderful symphonies of all time! Listen to the fantastic finale. It is one of the greatest highlights in history of music. Coda and reprise are unmatched and on the same level as the most tremendous finales of Anton Bruckner.
Absolute intensity throughout. Slightly folksy, but still majestic on a grand scale. Transitions effortlessly from the brooding to the triumphant.
The opening trumpet fanfare in the finale provides such a feeling of triumph and elegance, making the ending to a concert beyond spectacular.

14Mahler's 2nd Symphony
Mahler's 2nd Symphony (Auferstehung, I.E. resurrection) should be in the top 5. Aside from the raw emotional power of the various themes he interweaves (and that glorious finale in particular), you have the use of full choir, soprano/alto soloists, organ, the "sound of the distance" with the brass playing offstage, etc. Somehow Mahler wrangled this sheer breadth of instrumentation into a compelling, universal narrative about the journey through death, into the memory of the life one had, through purgatory, and finally into triumphant rebirth. That he composed this so early in his career is remarkable. The youtube version with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Jansons is the superlative version available online.
Mahler's 2nd is only second to Beethoven's 9th. It contains the whole of human emotion transformed into music. The weathered taste of long-time music buffs often inclines them towards novelty or complexity over depth of feeling. But the blithe or jarring is nothing but noise, and Mahler knew that.
As a professional conductor myself, I would place Mahler's 2nd Symphony above all others. The raw emotion of the piece can not be described in words here. The sheer enormity of the piece is astounding. The finale raises one into the sky, soaring towards a greater purpose.
[Newest]This has to be at the top, without a doubt.

15Berloz Symphony Fantastique
Now this is a dramatic, original, individual and inspired piece of symphonic work.

plmilligan1968

Such a flourish of dramatical so early in the 19th century.

16Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 43 - Jean Sibelius

17Mahler's 5th Symphony
Leonard Bernstein's interpretation of this piece is absolutely phenomenal, truly Mahler's greatest work.
Mahler 5 is probably one of the greatest compositions of music ever. The emotion and truth and beauty embedded within the pieces is breathtaking. Mahler really knew how to put love and his life into his product. symphonies 1,2, and 5 are some of the best forms of art ever to be heard. Mahler knew how to reveal the tragedies and beauties in life so elegantly through his music.

18Rachmaninov's 2nd Symphony
The first time I heard this Symphony was without a doubt a life changing experience. I don't know what happened but I was just in ecstasy for the whole time and was almost in shock at the emotions I was feeling. It brings me to tears every single time.
Every I listen to this symphony it make sad and still emotion of my home like that beautiful memories that has passed and remember now in my later years especially the 2nd melody in the movement 1.
"Unending flow of beautiful melody" perfectly describes this work of art. Continuous emotion, depth, and power moves any listener.
[Newest]The most beautiful melodies and the most wonderful harmony. It is so cleverly crafted with each note counting and making perfect sense.

19Symphony No. 8 in E-flat Major - Gustav Mahler

20Beethoven's 6th (Pastoral) Symphony
Simply the greatest piece of art ever created by a Han being. I would like to die listening to the fifth movement.
Number 1 for me - intensely moving
The builds and blends in and out of woodwind solos really do it for me.
[Newest]Are you kidding? Why so low? One of the best symphonies written

21Bruckner's 8th Symphony
The high water mark of classical music.
The coda of the adagio is the most beautiful four minutes in music
This symphony is maybe the climax of all symphonies. An outstanding, gigantic, tremendous and exceedingly powerful work without too much brimborium.

22Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony
Stunning masterpiece particularly the French horn movement and the finale, amazing vitality, before his death symphony no. 6
I love the melodies within the piece.

23Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 36 - Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovksy

24Bruckner's 4th (The Romantic) Symphony
Beautiful opening; uncharacteristic Schubertian slow movement, famous hotn call in the scherzo and a stunning final movement coda that only conductor Celibidache interpreted as a vision of entering into Heaven. Truly Spiritual.

25Mahler's 9th Symphony
It's a sin not to include this piece in the top two. The opening notes of the last movement is beyond any human creation that have ever existed.
The final bars of the last movement achieve the impossible of leaving you feeling saddened, bereft and yet totally uplifted.
I always wonder what would Beethoven feel if he hears this symphony. I imagined he would cry utterly. Sadly we will never know.

26Symphony No. 11 in G Minor, Op. 103 - Dmitri Shostakovich

27Beethoven's 8th (Little One) Symphony
Light hearted and cheerful themes run through this wonderful symphonic work.

plmilligan1968


28Schubert's 9th Symphony
This symphony is really great and wonderful. It is probably the most Important milestone, that was directly leading to the fantastic symphonies of Anton Bruckner.
Ah, Schubert, the master of the melodic symphony. What a brilliant piece of music. Should be higher up on the list.
This has got to be the most underrated symphony on the entire list.

29Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, Op. 100 - Sergei Prokofiev
This incredible piece of music has a depth, drama and beauty that surpasses the greatest Shostakovich symphonies, and makes a mockery of all who calls Prokofiev a cynical an non-personal composer. The last minutes of the Adagio is one of the most heart-breakingly beautiful places in all orchestral music.

30Scriabin Symphony 1

31Borodin's 2nd Symphony
A big Russian boisterous sounding symphony.

plmilligan1968


32Tchaikovsky Symphony 1

33Sibelius' 5th Symphony
One of the really great symphonies.

34Saint Saens 3rd (Organ) Symphony
This symphony is powerful and moving and works both at an intellectual level and an emotional level. Most satisfying.
A very under played and under rated symphonic work but its truly awesome.

plmilligan1968

So underrated! Sadly, many people have never heard it.

35Symphony No. 2 in C Minor - Gustav Mahler

36Symphony No. 1 in C Major, Op. 21 - Ludwig Van Beethoven

37Mahler's 3rd Symphony
I played the finale of this symphony in the 8th grade, so I have a special place in my heart for it.

higgsboson2142


38Mahler's 4th Symphony
Pure genius
Simply perfect
Exhilarating, yet peaceful
Fourth movement is amazingly written
Easy to tell what Mahler's intention was when he wrote this magnificent symphony
Possibly the greatest Mahler symphony
What a panorama of beauty and yearning!

39Beethoven's 4th Syphony
Not too long, yet as good as the others

40Mozart's Symphony No.41
Should be in the top five. A beautiful work that was WAY ahead of its time.
One of the most ingenious and fabulous symphonies in history. Analyse the finale! Sophistication to perfection.
The greatest symphony written by the greatest composer, period.
[Newest]Belongs near the top of this or any list

41Schubert's 8th Unfinished Symphony
One of the greatest symphonies of all time. As I get older I found out the greatness in this work, not when I was younger. Cannot believe Schubert in his mid twenties, can compose such a work - the 2nd movement, in a different world!
Special... Even with only two movements, but it sounds perfect and beautiful

42Bruckner's 7th Symphony
A very underrated symphony in my opinion bruckner at his best. Really takes you on an emotional journey
This symphony is one of the greatest.
Powerful and melodic, somewhere between Beethoven and Tchaikovsky and so acessable.

43Franck's Symphony in D Minor

44Dvorak's 8th Symphony
Truly wonderful symphony, quite underrated.
Perfectly written
Totally can tell what perspective he was writng it from
Underrated symphony
Folklore based on Prague
Nice melody played with emotion

45Schumann Symphony 1

46Mahler's 8th Symphony
Mahler's masterpiece. He wrote it in six weeks, and not a single piece of music have made shiver the way the finale of the this piece has.

47Bruckner's 9th Symphony
An extraordinary piece of music. Majestic, powerful, mysterious, beautiful, terrifying and timeless are all words that describe the symphony. Bruckner died before completing the final movement. However, Simon Rattle conducts a very good recording of the 9th, including an excellent interpretation of the unfinished final movement. A very religious man, Bruckner dedicated the 9th symphony to God.
A tragic and solemn masterpiece, from a personal point of view Bruckner approached his death, doubts and moments of yearning for eternal redemption by God.
The last and unfinished symphony of Anton Bruckner is in some way the most accomplished symphony of all time.

48Shostakovich's 7th Symphony ("Leningrad")
This is one of my top 5 symphonies ever. The way Shostakovich tells us of the pain and sorrow the city of Leningrad suffered during the German invasion (and siege of 1941) - and throughout the Stalin totalitarian regime - is absolutely stunning. An immense piece of art!

49Beethoven's Egmont Overture
This is not a symphony
Its only like 8 mins but when you reach the end you are so swept up in the rhythms and notes. it is great for before a game or race

50Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony

51Mozart's 25th Symphony
This is the best symphony ever. I love the first movement.

guest1

First movement Allegro con brio is my favorite
Best of all- Allegro con brio

52Sibelius' 7th Symphony
Unfortunately the last of Sibelius' ingenious, sophisticated, mysterious, fabulous, thoughtful and fantastic symphonies.

53Brahms's 1st Symphony
It was regarded as Beethoven's 10th. The opening is thundering. The last movement is triumphant. The symphony should be rated the first 10.
First and fourth movement are just epic! Plenty of ingenious musical ideas!

54Sibelius' 1st Symphony
I had one conductor compare the last movement to Fate, which I think is a perfect description. The entire symphony is great though. I am always moved to tears by final repetition of the theme at the end of the last movement and the those last pizzicato notes at the end that mirror the end of the first movement always gives me chills.
So passionate and full of loud brass. This is so so so beautiful to play and to listen to, especially with the heart-wrenching melodies!
Endlessly beautiful and very underrated.

55Haydn's Symphony 45, Farewell
Wonderful modern for its time symphony

56Dvorák's 7th Symphony
Sombre, sinister, dramatic, energetic... Wonderful. IT ROCKS!
I, personally, consider this Dvorak's BEST symphony! Undoubtedly his 9th is more famous and also fantastic, but I just think this 7th is more, sincere, less refined and very powerful!
The best symphony I have ever heard.

57Tchaikovsky's 1st Symphony

58Shore's The Lord of the Rings Symphony
The musicality and personality of the music really tells a story. So beautiful and just real.

59Rachmaninov's 1st Symphony

60Bruckner's 6th Symphony
This symphony is strangely enough still one of the most underrated symphonies.

61Brahms Symphony No. 3
I love this symphony above all the others. All the movements are special, but the third movement is especially beautiful and melancholic while the fourth is intensely passionate. This symphony is often underrated probably due to its lack of excitement. But it contains a gentleness that should be appreciated. The more you listen to it, the more wonderful it sounds.

62Shostakovich - Symphony no. 13 in B-flat minor "Babi Yar"
Chilling from beginning to end, but not without the greatest courage and. Five movements set to poems centered on the evil of antisemitism, cultimating in the first movememt, which in my opinion is the scariest music ever written, and one of DSCH's greatest works, hindered by Soviet authority's great efforts to censor it and stop performances alltogether.
This piece scares me, but it is so sad and poignant

63Rachmaninov's 3rd Symphony
The most innovative, creative, emotional, musical genius the world has known!
Stunning beginning to end. One of the best finales I've ever heard.

64Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture
This is not a symphony
Unimaginable heartthrobing full of deep elevated passion!

65Haydn's Symphony No. 44 ("Trauer")
Once heard, cannot forget, the vigorous opening and closing movements, and the most memorable slow movement.

66Prokofiev's 5th Symphony
A wonder of versatility and harmonic playfulness!

67Haydn's Symphony No. 101 ("The Clock")

68Chausson's Symphony in B-flat Major
Incredibly beautiful, relatively unknown symphony, should be performed more often!

69Carl Orff - Carmina Burana
This is not a symphony

70Mahler's Symphony No. 3 in D minor
Having just come back to classical music, this is the symphony which has got me excited. I just love all six movements. Thank you Mr. Mahler!
The final few moments in the finale of Symphony No. 3 are the most triumphant moments in music that I've ever had the pleasure of listening (Save for Nessun Dorma).

higgsboson2142


71Hans Rott - Symphony No. 1
So much of Mahler seems to be taken from this gem. Specifically the 2nd symphony. Anyhow, a phenomenal neglected work. And by the way, he didn't commit suicide. He died of tuberculosis in 1884 in an insane asylum.
Great genius who tragically committed suicide on a train after receiving negative criticism from Brahms. Mahler called him the "founder of the modern symphony".
Hans Rott and Gustav Mahler were both students of Anton Bruckner.

72Shostakovich Symphony No 1
Unbelievable that this masterful symphony was written at the age of 19 as a graduation piece from Leningrad Conservatory

73Mozart's 39th Symphony

74Mendelssohn's Symphony # 3, Scottish
This should be # 1. The finale will inspire
My favorite of all Medelssohn's symphonies. A truly inspired work, loaded with all sorts of emotion.

75Enescu's 1st Symphony

76Bruckner's 5th Symphony
The most gigantic finale of all symphonies.

77Haydn's "London" Symphony 104

78Sibelius' 4th Symphony
Mysterious, arcane, unfathomable and fantastic.

79Brahms' Symphony No. 2
I am absolutely convinced, that Bruckner is by far the more important and more fascinating symphonist than Brahms. But the beautiful 2nd symphony of Brahms belongs in this list.

80Mozart - Symphony No. 38 (Prague Symphony)

Comments About This List

Featured Lists
Popular Lists
New Lists

Top Remixes of This List

mrsymphonyman

kimutai

Dorian

Pem204

dstdft

see more...

Posts About This List

List Info

This list was created 6 years, 221 days ago and has been voted on over 1,000 times. This top ten list has been remixed 8 times and has been blogged about 1 times.

Updated Wednesday, April 01, 2015


List Error Reporting

See an item on this list that's misspelled, duplicated, or doesn't belong? Let us know. Click here to report the error.