A symphony is the most emotionally charged composition as it uses layers of music using many different musical instruments. The notes from conflicting instruments when assembled by a grand master of music converge to form an auditory experience unlike any other. Then the question arises: What makes a symphony stand out from the rest? Here are some examples of musical symphonies that have gripped the imagination of the masses for centuries.
Symphony No. 40 – Mozart
This symphony is characterised by its dense notes, which use bassoons, horns, strings, flutes, clarinets and more such instruments. Since it is primarily in G minor, it is often called the ‘Great G Minor Symphony’, which perfectly demonstrates how Mozart could give a masterclass using just one note. The overall cheerful music has a sense of despondence, too, which propounds on the complexity of life. This one is a testimony of the brilliance of child prodigy Mozart, whose short life saw some of the greatest musical creations known to the world.
Mahler – Symphony No. 9
The last completed work of Mahler, this symphony beautifully encapsulates the emotional depth of the composer who was waning towards his death. Even the hauntingly slow last page depicts the existential angst and the exploration of the two worlds- life and death. This symphony has a meditative quality that transforms into a repository of questions that one has when the final time comes and the subsequent acceptance of fate. Unlike most symphonies, this one does not have a heavy conclusion but a solemn one.
Dvorák – Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95 (“From the New World”)
The grandness of this symphony is impossible to emulate since it uses classic repertoire and is a homage to American folk music. Composed while staying in the United States, Dvorák wanted to create a transcendental rhythm that has a timeless flair. He uses the English horn solo to give a stature of something big that is about to unfold. This evokes a sense of hurried emotions that has a subtle nod to the freedom that the United States had due to being a democratic state.
Symphonie Fantastique – Berlioz
Just like the name of this symphony, a fantastic creation by French composer Hector Berlioz, this one has a dream-like quality perfect for drifting away in the world of fairies, twinkling lights and mystical lands. The grandeur is coupled with a tinge of sadness experienced by the composer when he is rejected by a woman he had an unrequited love for. He turned to opium to curb his broken heart and created this piece in a hallucinated mind, which provides an otherworldly quality to the score.
Symphony No. 6 – Tchaikovsky
Tchaikovsky became a household name with his ballet pieces, “Swan Lake’ and ‘The Nutcracker’ which were based on European folk tales. He incorporated a magical quality in his compositions, which would make the listener intertwine with an ethereal world. This symphony, known as ‘Pathetique Symphony’ or ‘Passionate Symphony, deviated from his signature notes and had a huge emotional quotient, which was painted with shades of darkness. Since this was his culminating composition, his rampant mood swings can be felt in each note.
Symphony No. 3 – Beethoven
Beethoven was the ultimate legend, and his symphonies have traversed to remain supreme, conquering the tide of times. Often lauded as the greatest symphony ever created, this piece which is known as ‘Eroica’, which translates to ‘Heroic’, possesses a rare orchestral quality that provides vivid imagery through its harmonic movements. It was also one of the first Romantic Symphony as it shifted from the usual Classic Era, making it even more applaudable. This piece is characterised by its dramatic notes, which subtly rise and collapse to form a staggering work of art.