Further thoughts on symphonies

Each to their own, but when I’m yearning to listen to an emotionally satisfying symphony, it has been forty or more years since the thought of turning to any of the symphonies of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann or Brahms has crossed my mind. My go to symphonists have, instead, been Bruckner, Sibelius and Shostakovich, whose symphonies I can hear again and again without ever tiring of them.

That said, over the past several months, I’ve gradually been working my way through the complete symphonies of various other composers – music that for whatever reason, I’d never gotten around to hearing before. This journey has raised one of those, why oh why, questions, as I’ve listened to music that makes me wonder why I rarely, if ever, find them programmed by any orchestras or played on the radio. Most recent listens have been the complete symphonies of Vaughn Williams, Prokofiev, Nielsen, Harris, Weinberg and Myaskovsky. And while his body of work is somewhat uneven, Hovhaness wrote many symphonies of incredible beauty and power. While perhaps my personal tastes in music reflect a minority of one, I wonder if these works were programmed by today’s symphony orchestras their audiences would not only welcome them, but return again and again for more.