• Ian Passmore

Passmore's Picks: Top 10 Symphonies You've NEVER Heard, Nos. 7 & 8

Happy June, friends! I hope you’ve enjoyed the first 6 of my (relatively) unknown symphonies; because, this week, we’re moving on to symphonies 7 and 8. We’re in the home stretch!

These two symphonies are actually by noted symphonists Sergei Prokofiev and Ralph Vaughan Williams. However, of Prokofiev’s seven symphonies, only the First and Fifth receive regular performances…and, sadly, none of Vaughan Williams’s nine symphonies receive anything approaching regular performances in the US.

Prokofiev completed his Seventh and final symphony in 1952, just one year before his death. Fun fact: the symphony actually has two endings. The original, quiet ending, was preferred by Prokofiev; but he did compose another, more upbeat coda in order to win the Stalin Prize of 100,000 rubles. By today’s standards, that’s just over $1300 USD. The performance features the London Symphony Orchestra, led by Walter Weller.

The English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote his Eighth Symphony between 1953 and 1955, by which time he was considered to be the “Grand Old Man of English music.” He wasn’t crazy about that title…. Gongs — not to be confused with tam-tams — are featured prominently in the finale, as Vaughan Williams was fascinated by their use in Puccini’s opera Turandot. The Eighth Symphony is dedicated to one of my favorite conductors, Sir John Barbirolli, affectionately known to Vaughan Williams as “Glorious John.” The performance features the Hallé Orchestra, led by the symphony’s dedicatee, "Glorious John," himself!

This has been a lot of fun — enjoy! :) Symphonies 9 and 10 are coming soon....

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