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]Simply the greatest human achievement of all time. If there is a God, he is speaking here, in the soaring voices of the final movement. How this often horrible man (by all accounts) came so close to sublimity is one of the wonders of the Universe. What I wouldn't give for five minutes in Beethoven's presence as he was writing this music!

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 first movement is the hammer. After that it becomes interesting.

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.

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.
This Symphony is much better than his No.4 I don't understand those music lovers who judge otherwise.
Best musical piece ever written. In one second, it has more emotion than the entire pop music.
[newest]
Thanks for this coplet job

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]
Should be at least 3rd behind his "Jupiter" and Beethoven's 5th

6Beethoven's 3rd (Eroica) Symphony
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.
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
[newest]
Beethoven breaks forth in all his glory.

7Symphony No. 5 in D Minor, Op. 47 - Dmitri Shostakovich

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.

9Symphony No. 1 in D Major - Gustav Mahler
Pure genius throughout
Mahler is the most underrated composer of all time
Finale is brilliant
Probably the greatest first ever -- yes, even over Brahms'
AWESOME COMPOSOER! Best Symphony. In my proffesional opinion, Better than Beethoven 9th which is first on this list

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

11Sibelius' 2nd Symphony
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.
I am playing this in my orchestra it is SO GOOD! Have to say that the repapitulation on the 4th movement is the best recap EVER!

12Berloz 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.

13Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 43 - Jean Sibelius

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.
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.
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.
[Newest]This has to be at the top, without a doubt.

15Shostakovich'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.

16Rachmaninov'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.
Is the most beautiful and romantic symphony I ever heard
"Unending flow of beautiful melody" perfectly describes this work of art. Continuous emotion, depth, and power moves any listener.

17Symphony No. 8 in E-flat Major - Gustav Mahler

18Mahler's 5th Symphony
Leonard Bernstein's interpretation of this piece is absolutely phenomenal, truly Mahler's greatest work.

19Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 36 - Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovksy

20Mahler's 9th Symphony
The most heart-wrenching piece of music ever written (only superseded by his incomplete Tenth). With soaring phrases and themes, it goes beyond his Fifth in terms of beauty.
My personal favorite work of art. The finale is the most moving single movement in the repertoire.

mahlerialiszt

Beyond words, this symphony is a piece of heaven itself.

21Bruckner'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.

22Symphony No. 11 in G Minor, Op. 103 - Dmitri Shostakovich

23Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony
Stunning masterpiece particularly the French horn movement and the finale, amazing vitality, before his death symphony no. 6

24Beethoven'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.

25Schubert's 9th Symphony
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.
Have always loved its wide romantic verve

26Symphony 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.

27Borodin's 2nd Symphony
A big Russian boisterous sounding symphony.

plmilligan1968


28Symphony No. 2 in C Minor - Gustav Mahler

29Beethoven'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

30Saint 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.

31Bruckner's 8th Symphony
The high water mark of classical music.

32Mahler'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!

33Beethoven's 8th (Little One) Symphony
Light hearted and cheerful themes run through this wonderful symphonic work.

plmilligan1968


34Schubert'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

35Mozart's Symphony No.41
Should be in the top five. A beautiful work that was WAY ahead of its time.
The greatest symphony written by the greatest composer, period.
To my mind the best symphony ever

36Bruckner's 7th Symphony
A very underrated symphony in my opinion bruckner at his best. Really takes you on an emotional journey
Powerful and melodic, somewhere between Beethoven and Tchaikovsky and so acessable.

37Symphony No. 1 in C Major, Op. 21 - Ludwig Van Beethoven

38Franck's Symphony in D Minor

39Mahler'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.

40Shostakovich'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!

41Dvorak'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

42Bruckner'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.

43Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony

44Brahms'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!

45Mozart's 25th Symphony
This is the best symphony ever. I love the first movement.

guest1

Best of all- Allegro con brio
It bears so many emotions.

46Sibelius' 7th Symphony

47Shore's The Lord of the Rings Symphony
The musicality and personality of the music really tells a story. So beautiful and just real.

48Dvorák's 7th Symphony
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!
Sombre, sinister, dramatic, energetic... Wonderful. IT ROCKS!

49Tchaikovsky's 1st Symphony

50Sibelius' 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.

51Bruckner's 6th Symphony

52Brahms 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.

53Shostakovich - 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

54Beethoven's 4th Syphony
Not too long, yet as good as the others

55Prokofiev's 5th Symphony
A wonder of versatility and harmonic playfulness!

56Chausson's Symphony in B-flat Major
Incredibly beautiful, relatively unknown symphony, should be performed more often!

57Carl Orff - Carmina Burana
This is not a symphony

58Mahler'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


59Hans 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".

60Shostakovich Symphony No 1
Unbelievable that this masterful symphony was written at the age of 19 as a graduation piece from Leningrad Conservatory

61Mozart's 39th Symphony

62Mendelssohn'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.

63Haydn's Symphony 45, Farewell

64Beethoven's Egmont Overture
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

65Rachmaninov's 3rd Symphony
Stunning beginning to end. One of the best finales I've ever heard.

66Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture

67Enescu's 1st Symphony

68Haydn's Symphony No. 44 ("Trauer")
Once heard, cannot forget, the vigorous opening and closing movements, and the most memorable slow movement.

69Haydn's Symphony No. 101 ("The Clock")

70Rachmaninov's 1st Symphony

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This list was created 6 years, 59 days ago and has been voted on over 1,000 times. This top ten list has been remixed 6 times and has been blogged about 1 times.

Updated Tuesday, October 21, 2014


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