V.com weekend vote: Which is your favorite Beethoven Symphony?

December 11, 2020, 8:43 PM · Which is your favorite Beethoven Symphony? This question is a little like "Which is your favorite child?" What, pick one?

I love them all, and for different reasons. There is of course the moment that everyone knows from Beethoven's 9th Symphony: when the chorus jubilantly bursts into the famous "Ode to Joy." This music has been used on so many symbolic occasions, and very recently, here is one more: Marin Alsop put together a #GlobalOdeToJoy that involved the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, as well as more than 1,000 voices from 58 countries that virtually formed the "Stay at Home Choir." How Peak 2020 is this?

Is the Ninth Symphony my favorite Beethoven symphony? I can't say. What about the second movement from the 7th? What about the entire 5th Symphony? The Pastorale (6th symphony - I always think of Fantasia!)? The First Symphony? The Eroica (#3)? And all the others - every time I play one of these symphonies, listen to a wonderful recording, see a beautiful performance -- it becomes my favorite for a period of time. So I'm not telling you how I'm voting - it could change next week!

What is your current favorite, when it comes to the symphonies of Beethoven? Please participate in the vote and then tell us about your favorite, and/or about your memorable experiences with Beethoven's symphonies. (click here for a Spotify playlist I made of all nine symphonies.)


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Replies

December 12, 2020 at 07:44 AM · Current favourite - Eroica

Long-term favourite - Pastoral

As Laurie says, next week it could be different. I went through a phase recently where no 7 was about the only music of any kind I could listen to!

(My least favourite is no 5 for various reasons I won't go into. They are all great - including no 5).

December 12, 2020 at 12:24 PM · I'm afraid it's the Fifth and always has been - which may not show a subtle taste, but I'm not a subtle person. I just love the power and the drama.

December 12, 2020 at 03:15 PM · The 7th!! I've always thought the second movement would be glorious at a funeral or memorial service. (Laurie, I love the performance you linked to above!!)

December 12, 2020 at 03:57 PM · A few years ago I was glued to the spot in a London tube station (They pipe classical music in these stations to discourage the yobs from assembling) listening to Beethoven's Battle Symphony. In spite of that, I would never have voted for it as No 1, so, Laurie, don't feel too bad about not listing it. A colleague gave me a CD of Beethoven's 10th, reconstructed by Barry Cooper. The middle section I thought pretty good,but the outer sections sounded even more like a series of alternative sketches for the same passages, cobbled together. So, Laurie, please don't feel bad about that one either!

As for choosing from the rest, I can't do it - Maybe Brahms 4? Dvorak 7? Maybe Bruckner 4 or 9?

Actually my favourite Beethoven is the Missa Solennis with its lovely violin concerto slow movement (=Benedictus).

December 12, 2020 at 04:15 PM · "This question is a little like 'Which is your favorite child?' What, pick one?" This parallels what I had already thought when I first read the blog title: "It's a little bit like asking me which family member I love best." My answer is: Different ones for different reasons. So I didn't vote.

The 5th has a special place among my memories, because it was one of the very first symphonic scores ever I heard -- before preschool, if I remember right. To this day, it evokes memories of my old hometown and early childhood hangouts; but there's far more to its appeal than that. It's a powerful drama that grabs and holds your attention -- e.g., the transition from the 3rd movement to the 4th, where c minor gives way to C Major in a big crescendo. From what I've read, Beethoven slaved over this work intermittently a few years, revising and tweaking, before he finally went public with it. After the first performance, he did a bit of follow-up tweaking. I've heard it said that great writing is often revised writing.

I love all his other symphonies, too. I have recordings of them all -- and all nine full scores -- in my collection.

Since the 6th, the Pastoral, was at the top of the list when I started writing this, I'll give a little feedback on it, too. I first heard this score as a kid and liked it right away. It was late spring. One afternoon, when I was walking home from school through some rural stretches, I already had this score pretty well in my mind's ear when a thunderstorm overtook me about halfway along the route. I took shelter under a railroad bridge till the worst was over, then continued homeward. The abrupt, ominous transition from the 3rd movement, "Lustiges Zusammensein der Landleute" (Merry gathering of country folk), to the 4th, "Gewitter, Sturm" (Thunderstorm), played in my mind that afternoon, as did the full power of the orchestra at the storm's peak -- and the long diminuendo that depicts the storm's dissipation soon afterward.

December 12, 2020 at 04:25 PM · Laurie, I was wondering--does your survey software list the choices in order of current popularity?

December 12, 2020 at 04:34 PM · I'm the same way. My long-term favorite is Eroica. It was the first one I ever played, in Youth Orchestra in 1982. But I've played most of the rest in the interm, and #5, 7, and 9 have all taken their place as my favorite while I was playing them. I was going to perform #4 and #8, the two I was missing, this year, but the pandemic got in the way. Hopefully we'll be able to carry on with our belated Beethoven plans when we can get together again as an orchestra!

December 12, 2020 at 08:27 PM · Francesca, yes that is a quirk of the software!

December 12, 2020 at 10:21 PM · My favorite is #4, for its slow movement and finale. (I may also be biased because it was the first Beethoven symphony I played.)

I do have a soft spot for #5 as well, because it was the symphony with which I finished my personal Beethoven cycle.

My Beethoven cycle was an interesting one, because 1) I somehow managed to play all nine without repeating any, and 2) for the most part I played the least popular ones first and the most popular ones last. My order was 4, 1, 2, 8, 7, 9, 3, 6, 5. And since completing the cycle, I've played #6 three more times and #8 two more times, but none of the others!

December 13, 2020 at 03:23 AM · #7, hands down.

Least favorite to play: #6, in which the 2nd violin part is exhausting and physically taxing. I’m always in pain by the end.

December 13, 2020 at 02:34 PM · As it turns out I am joining a majority with #7. And like everybody else because of the (not so) slow movement.

However, when listening to one of them that one will be my favorite--for the time of the performance at least.

Mary Ellen, isn't it true more generally that second violin parts--both orchestral and chamber--are more physically taxing than first parts?

December 13, 2020 at 05:11 PM · I voted for #8, maybe because I have only played it once. The 4th movement is fun for the audience, but a real physical chore to play. #6 is very pleasant, but a little long. The first movement of #6 says "Good Morning". The slow movement of #7 is of course on the short list of best music ever. 2nd violin parts can be busier than 1st violin parts.

December 14, 2020 at 01:23 AM · “Mary Ellen, isn't it true more generally that second violin parts--both orchestral and chamber--are more physically taxing than first parts?“

Yes. Yes it is. :-)

Playing on lower strings, as we so often do in the 2nds, is much harder on the right arm than playing on the E string.

December 14, 2020 at 01:57 PM · Number 7, with my favorite movement the second.

December 14, 2020 at 07:23 PM · Pastorale.

But could we do this for the sonatas too? Omitting perhaps the Spring (which is so well known and is also on so many standard repertoires) the answers would be very interesting...

December 15, 2020 at 02:08 AM · Thanks, Laurie. After I voted, I could see that was the case, but not before I voted. I'll confess: sometime I vote just to see the results, in which case my vote may not be sincere. This time, before I voted it was already apparent that the choices weren't in a neutral order because there were numbers in the choices :) I wonder how many other people vote just to see the results--it's possible to "pollute" the survey outcome if too many do. (Robert would know that.) You might consider always showing the current votes.

December 17, 2020 at 12:03 AM · Very difficult to State 1 Favourite Beethoven Symphony ~

So very grateful to have performed All Nine, there are special moments in each which take one's breath away ~ Oh My!! I do Love the Eroica, and The Seventh, with warmed inner uplifted feelings when playing The Ninth, and sheer admiration for All 6 Others, each of which contain special memorable moments, yet if hard pressed, I would vote the Eroica {3rd} and Seventh Symphonies and just love the expansiveness of LvB's range of

Human Emotions throughout All Nine!!! (An also beloved work is LvB Choral Fantasy & the Missa Solemnis w/Violin Obligato!)

If permitted, can we mention a favoured Piano Concerto?? If not mentioned, I'll defer from saying which of the Five Piano Concerti I most love but it's not The Emperor, tho' most Grand!

I feel strange selecting for we are mortal's asked to choose from an Epic Master!?? I will just come to visit to read every Reply to learn a bit about various tastes from such a Salade of Greatness!!!!

I would like to recall my first acquaintance with Beethoven long long ago at some point ~

A Fabulous Happy Birthday Salute, dear Maestro Beethoven, on your Two Hundred and Fiftieth! I performed your Piano and Violin Sonata No. 8 for your Two Hundredth in London on BBC Radio 3!! Peter Croser & I were enchanted by the 8th Sonata!!

~ Elisabeth Matesky ~

..... December 16, 2020 .....

December 17, 2020 at 07:46 PM · Too many to choose! I too was turned on to #6 by Fantasia, but then there's numbers 3, 5, 8 (not necessarily in that order), and good old #7. I once saw a performance of #7 where the conductor was literally jumping up and down on the podium during the last movement - and made us want to jump up and down too. Someone once described the ending of #8 as Beethoven making sure it was well and truly dead.

Happy 250th, Ludwig!

December 18, 2020 at 02:38 AM · Overall, maybe no. 5. For individual movements, the first two movements of no.3, the second movement of no. 7 and the first two movements of no. 9.

In one of Beethoven’s conversation notebooks a friend asked the master which was his own favorite. By that point Beethoven had composed 8 and his answer was no.3. The friend was surprised and thought Beethoven would have chosen no. 5. but Beethoven insisted no. 3.

With different orchestras over the years, I have played all but no. 6. I had the pleasure and privilege of playing no.9 in Carnegie Hall!

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