4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Second best symphony of all time?

Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Bruckner, Brahms, Shostakovich, Mozart, Dvorak, Sibelius, Mahler

There is the distinction between “greatest” and “most popular."
There is the distinction between “greatest” and “most popular."
Video:

Dvořák: 7. Sinfonie

hr-Sinfonieorchester – Frankfurt Radio Symphony, Peter Oundjian conducting

hr-Sinfonieorchester – Frankfurt Radio Symphony, Peter Oundjian conducting

Video:

Tchaikovsky Symphony No.5

By Zubin Mehta and Israel Philharmonic Orchestra

By Zubin Mehta and Israel Philharmonic Orchestra

I’ve had dozens of conversations that discussed the greatest symphonies of all time. I’ve read dozens of articles on the same topic. The usual suspects are all there, Beethoven’s Ninth, Mahler’s Ninth, Bruckner’s Eighth, Brahms' Fourth, Shostakovich’s Seventh, but what about the best second-best symphonies of all time?

Who wrote the best second-best symphony? Allow me to explain.

Tchaikovsky’s greatest symphony is his Sixth. In my opinion, his second-best symphony is his Fifth. How does Tchaikovsky’s Fifth stack up against the second-best symphony Sibelius wrote, which would also be his Fifth?

Of course, it isn’t always clear which symphony is a composer’s greatest. In the case of Mozart, his Symphony No. 41 is usually considered to be his greatest but just as many partisans might consider his Symphony No. 40 to be his greatest.

Video:

Brahms: Symphony No.1 in C Minor, Op.68

Berlin Philharmonic (Karajan)

Berlin Philharmonic (Karajan)

Video:

SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No 10 in E minor op 93

Dir. Valery Gergiev-Orq. Mariinsky theatre

Dir. Valery Gergiev-Orq. Mariinsky theatre

With Beethoven, it becomes even more difficult. If you Google “greatest symphonies of all time”, you might be surprised at how often Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 comes out on top as the greatest ever written. Where does that leave us with his second-best? Is it the Ninth? The Fifth, Seventh, or even the Sixth?

Video:

Sibelius, Symphonie Nr 5 Es Dur op 82

Leonard Bernstein, Wiener Philharmoniker

Leonard Bernstein, Wiener Philharmoniker

Video:

Mahler Symphony No 2

Gustavo Dudamel · Simón Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela

Gustavo Dudamel · Simón Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela

There is also the distinction between “greatest” and “most popular”. Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 is not his greatest symphony but it is clearly his most popular. The same can be said for Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4, and Mahler’s Symphony No 5.

Video:

Bruckner - Symphony No. 7

Celibidache - Münchner Philharmoniker Live Tokyo 18 Oct 1990

Celibidache - Münchner Philharmoniker Live Tokyo 18 Oct 1990

Video:

Mozart, Symphony No 40

Harnoncourt, VPO Japan Live series

Harnoncourt, VPO Japan Live series

It’s a daunting task but I think it could be fun so let’s take a listen to the top nine second-best symphonies ever written.

Video:

Beethoven- Symphony No 9 in D minor, 'Choral'

Georg Solti-London Philharmonic Orchestra-1986

Georg Solti-London Philharmonic Orchestra-1986

Number nine is Dvorak’s Symphony No.7. I’m calling Dvorak’s Symphony No.9 his greatest and most enduring symphonic contribution. It was a close race between Dvorak’s Seventh and Eighth but I prefer the more dramatic Seventh to the more lyrical Eighth.

Number eight is the aforementioned Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5. As in the Dvorak Seventh and Eighth, the margin was slight between Tchaikovsky’s Fourth and Fifth.

Number seven is Brahms’ Symphony No. 1. This piece easily has the most ominous opening measures of any second-best symphony.

Number six is Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10. Again, his Fifth is his most popular and my personal favorite but we’re talking about greatness.

Number five is Sibelius’s Symphony No. 5. His Seventh is generally considered his greatest with his Second being the most popular but the Sibelius Fifth is special, even amongst other great “fifth’s” such as Mahler, Shostakovich, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky.

Number four is Mahler’s Symphony No. 2. I know there are many who would argue for Mahler’s Fifth or Third at this point but hearing Mahler’s Second as a college student was a life-changing event. I began proselytizing the uninitiated within my dorm.

Number three is Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7. I’m a Bruckner fan so this is probably a higher rating than most would give his Seventh. Once I grew out of my 20s, Bruckner became preeminent over Mahler which is why Bruckner has edged out his venerable student here. As an aside, any Mahler fan-boys who are middle-aged are suffering from symphonic arrested development, in my facetious opinion.

Number two is Mozart’s Symphony No. 40. No arguing with Mozart.

The gold medal for the silver medal symphonies goes to any Beethoven symphony that isn’t his Third. I’d say it’s probably his Ninth.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Stand-up paddleboarders can be tiresome

"I’m not going to try to drop in on someone"
Next Article

Sheet music as tool of colonialism

Oxford itself is a product of Western Civilization
There is the distinction between “greatest” and “most popular."
There is the distinction between “greatest” and “most popular."
Video:

Dvořák: 7. Sinfonie

hr-Sinfonieorchester – Frankfurt Radio Symphony, Peter Oundjian conducting

hr-Sinfonieorchester – Frankfurt Radio Symphony, Peter Oundjian conducting

Video:

Tchaikovsky Symphony No.5

By Zubin Mehta and Israel Philharmonic Orchestra

By Zubin Mehta and Israel Philharmonic Orchestra

I’ve had dozens of conversations that discussed the greatest symphonies of all time. I’ve read dozens of articles on the same topic. The usual suspects are all there, Beethoven’s Ninth, Mahler’s Ninth, Bruckner’s Eighth, Brahms' Fourth, Shostakovich’s Seventh, but what about the best second-best symphonies of all time?

Who wrote the best second-best symphony? Allow me to explain.

Tchaikovsky’s greatest symphony is his Sixth. In my opinion, his second-best symphony is his Fifth. How does Tchaikovsky’s Fifth stack up against the second-best symphony Sibelius wrote, which would also be his Fifth?

Of course, it isn’t always clear which symphony is a composer’s greatest. In the case of Mozart, his Symphony No. 41 is usually considered to be his greatest but just as many partisans might consider his Symphony No. 40 to be his greatest.

Video:

Brahms: Symphony No.1 in C Minor, Op.68

Berlin Philharmonic (Karajan)

Berlin Philharmonic (Karajan)

Video:

SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No 10 in E minor op 93

Dir. Valery Gergiev-Orq. Mariinsky theatre

Dir. Valery Gergiev-Orq. Mariinsky theatre

With Beethoven, it becomes even more difficult. If you Google “greatest symphonies of all time”, you might be surprised at how often Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 comes out on top as the greatest ever written. Where does that leave us with his second-best? Is it the Ninth? The Fifth, Seventh, or even the Sixth?

Video:

Sibelius, Symphonie Nr 5 Es Dur op 82

Leonard Bernstein, Wiener Philharmoniker

Leonard Bernstein, Wiener Philharmoniker

Video:

Mahler Symphony No 2

Gustavo Dudamel · Simón Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela

Gustavo Dudamel · Simón Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela

There is also the distinction between “greatest” and “most popular”. Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 is not his greatest symphony but it is clearly his most popular. The same can be said for Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4, and Mahler’s Symphony No 5.

Video:

Bruckner - Symphony No. 7

Celibidache - Münchner Philharmoniker Live Tokyo 18 Oct 1990

Celibidache - Münchner Philharmoniker Live Tokyo 18 Oct 1990

Video:

Mozart, Symphony No 40

Harnoncourt, VPO Japan Live series

Harnoncourt, VPO Japan Live series

It’s a daunting task but I think it could be fun so let’s take a listen to the top nine second-best symphonies ever written.

Video:

Beethoven- Symphony No 9 in D minor, 'Choral'

Georg Solti-London Philharmonic Orchestra-1986

Georg Solti-London Philharmonic Orchestra-1986

Number nine is Dvorak’s Symphony No.7. I’m calling Dvorak’s Symphony No.9 his greatest and most enduring symphonic contribution. It was a close race between Dvorak’s Seventh and Eighth but I prefer the more dramatic Seventh to the more lyrical Eighth.

Number eight is the aforementioned Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5. As in the Dvorak Seventh and Eighth, the margin was slight between Tchaikovsky’s Fourth and Fifth.

Number seven is Brahms’ Symphony No. 1. This piece easily has the most ominous opening measures of any second-best symphony.

Number six is Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10. Again, his Fifth is his most popular and my personal favorite but we’re talking about greatness.

Number five is Sibelius’s Symphony No. 5. His Seventh is generally considered his greatest with his Second being the most popular but the Sibelius Fifth is special, even amongst other great “fifth’s” such as Mahler, Shostakovich, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky.

Number four is Mahler’s Symphony No. 2. I know there are many who would argue for Mahler’s Fifth or Third at this point but hearing Mahler’s Second as a college student was a life-changing event. I began proselytizing the uninitiated within my dorm.

Number three is Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7. I’m a Bruckner fan so this is probably a higher rating than most would give his Seventh. Once I grew out of my 20s, Bruckner became preeminent over Mahler which is why Bruckner has edged out his venerable student here. As an aside, any Mahler fan-boys who are middle-aged are suffering from symphonic arrested development, in my facetious opinion.

Number two is Mozart’s Symphony No. 40. No arguing with Mozart.

The gold medal for the silver medal symphonies goes to any Beethoven symphony that isn’t his Third. I’d say it’s probably his Ninth.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Cobra Kai cassettes

Tijuana’s La Rola records noticed the increase in used cassette sales in 2020
Next Article

San Diego's vinyl records surge, but why?

A talk with owners of Re-animated, Folk Arts, Lou's, Beat Box
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close