Haydn’s symphonies conveyed emotions more intensely with Beethoven’s symphony. To this day, his symphonies are viewed as brilliant models of how music can express the most powerful of human feelings. Which is why even with words it would be hard to emulate how they make you feel. How did vocal ensembles in the symphony suddenly get so good?
One reason for this is that composers in the classical era were trained to pit one goal against another, then as a conclusion to put them together. This mirrored the debate process you see in people, which made this pretty relatable and grounded for audiences.
But which of the thousands of symphonies written over the centuries is the greatest? To find out, we asked a group of 150 leading conductors to name their three favorite symphonies. We looked at the results and where there were points that were objectively close, we turned to trusted experts.
Top Symphonies of All Time
Below you’ll find the list of greatest symphonies of all time.
1. Brahms Symphony No. 4
Symphony No. 4 was Brahms’s last symphony written before he died. It was premiered on October 25, 1885, only a couple months after his death. The thing that makes this symphony special is that the composer actually played this beautiful piece himself at the premiere!
This music is really powerful, it creates conflict in your mind and then soothes you at the next moment. Performances usually last about 40 minutes.
This piece has 4 movements. They are:
- Allegro non-troppo
- Andante moderato
- Allegro giocoso
- Allegro energico e passionate
Instruments: 2 Flutes, 2 Oboes, 2 Trumpets, 2 Clarinets, 2 Bassoons, 3 Trombones, 4 Horns, Contrabassoon, Timpani, Triangle, and Strings.
2. Beethoven Symphony No. 5
This Beethoven symphony is one of the best-known symphonies of classical era and the most often played one too. It was premiered on December 22, 1808, and the composer himself conducted the performance. It’s sometimes called a victory symphony. The opening phrase of the work is most often used in Morse code.
Music is hard to write and create, so you’d better find something that’s motivating and lifts your spirit. This music has 4 movements which are all emotionally powerful:
- Allegro con brio
- Andante con moto
- Scherzo: Allegro
Instruments: 1 Piccolo, 2 Flutes, 2 Oboes, 2 Clarinets, 2 Bassoons, 1 Contrabassoon, 2 Horns, 2 Trumpets, 3 Trombones, Violins, Violas, Cellos, and Double Basses, Timpani.
3. Beethoven Symphony No. 3
This is one of Beethoven’s most celebrated pieces. This transition symphony bridges the classical and romantisc eras of music. Combining a range of musical instruments will create the perfect mood to become fully immersed in the sound and melody. You’ll love it!
This instrumental piece is commonly used in Hollywood movies. It was also first used in funerals since the 19th century. The work features 4 movements:
- Allegro con brio
- Marcia funebre: Adagio assai
- Scherzo: Allegro vivace
- Finale: Allegro Molto
Instruments: 2 Flutes, 2 Trumpets, 2 Clarinets, 2 Oboes, 2 Bassoons, 3 Horns, Timpani, and Strings.
4. Shostakovich Symphony No. 5
Shostakovich wrote Symphony no. 5 in 1937, relatively early in his career. You can feel the emotion as it mourns and grieves. It will capture your attention and make you listen to every note.
This piece usually lasts 45 minutes, with 4 movements:
- Moderato-Allegro non-troppo
- Allegro non-troppo
Instruments: 2 Flutes, 2 Oboes, 2 Clarinets, 2 Bassoons, 2 Harps, 3 Trumpets, 3 Trombones, 4 Horns, Tuba, Timpani, Snare Drum, Triangle, Cymbals, Bass Drum, Tam-tam, Contrabassoon, Glockenspiel, Xylophone, Piccolo, Piano, Celesta, and Strings.
5. Sibelius Symphony No. 7
This beautiful composition is Sibelius’ last complete symphony. Want to know the most interesting part of this composition? Obviously, it has only one movement in time. This work is considered to be Sibelius’s most remarkable achievement.
Instruments: The composition is scored for various instruments including 2 Flutes, 2 Oboes, 2 Clarinets, 2 Bassoons, 3 Trumpets, 3 Trombones, 4 Horns, Timpani, and Strings.
6. Mahler Symphony No. 5
Symphony no. 5, Mahler’s most accepted work, is distinct in many ways. One of these is the solo trumpet opening which is a distinctive way of starting Mahler’s Symphony no. 5. Moreover, Symphony no. 5 incorporates a similar rhythmic motive as that found in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5.
A lot of people who come see this composition get pretty excited. With so much emotion in one place and such a big musical canvas, it is a long but worthy show. It has 5 movements:
- Stürmisch bewegt, mit größter Vehemenz
- Rondo finale
7. Mozart Symphony No. 40
Mozart wrote this piece of music in 1788. “Great G Minor Symphony” is a nickname for it which is fitting because it’s one of only two minor key symphonies that he wrote. It starts off dark and angry but also has rhythm and there are other things too!
The composition has 4 movements.
- Molto allegro
- Menuetto: Allegretto- Trio
- Finale: Allegro assai
Instruments: 1 Flute, 2 Bassoons, 2 Clarinets, 2 Horns, 2 Oboes, and Strings.
8. Mendelssohn Symphony No. 4
This Mendelssohn symphony is called the Italian. It has many movements and is so pleasant to listen to. It’ll give you some joy for sure. Mendelssohn wrote this piece while he was away from his hometown, Europe. Pieces influenced by European culture can be heard in the melody.
This typically half hour performance includes 4 movements:
- Allegro vivace
- Andante con moto
- Con moto moderato
- Presto and Finale: Saltarello
Instruments: 2 Flutes, 2 Bassoons, 2 Clarinets, 2 Horns, 2 Oboes, 2 Trumpets, Timpani, and Strings.
9. Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6
Russian composer Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky named his final symphony ‘The Passionate Symphony’. Through passion and emotion, the music expressed in this symphony comes across powerfully. It has been used by many films, such as La La Land and Close Encounters, and in music as well. It was also featured in the 2010 Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony.
This beautiful piece of music is composed of 4 movements:
- Adagio – Allegro non troppo
- Allegro con grazia
- Allegro molto vivace
- Finale: Adagio lamentoso
Instruments: 3 Flutes, 2 Bassoons, 2 Clarinets, 2 Oboes, 4 Horns, 2 Trumpets, 3 Trombones, Tuba, Timpani, Bass Drum, Cymbals, Tam-tam and Strings.
10. Dvorák Symphony No. 9
This symphony is also known as The New World Symphony. Many people think this is Dvorak’s best work and one of the top Symphonies overall. That’s so cool – they played the symphony while they were on the moon! They also made it into plenty of songs.
This composition has 4 movements.
- Adagio, 4
- Scherzo: Molto vivace — Poco sostenuto
- Allegro con fuoco
Instruments: 2 Flutes, 2 Oboes, 2 Clarinets, 2 Bassoons, 4 Horns, 2 Trumpets, 2 Tenor Trombones, Bass trombone, Tuba, Timpani, Triangle, Cymbals, and Strings.
FAQ for Best Symphonies of All Time
What is a symphony?
Symphonies are a type of classical music that is often played with an orchestra.
The term symphony comes from the Greek word “symphonia” which means “sounding together.”
The first symphonies were written in the 17th century by composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach and Antonio Vivaldi.
What is the most famous symphony of all time?
One of the most famous symphonies of all time is Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. It was written in 1824 and it was performed for the first time in Vienna on 7th May 1824.
Which country has the best symphonies?
There are many countries with great symphonies, but there is no one country that has the best symphonies.
Who are famous composers of symphonies?
The most famous composers of symphonies are Ludwig van Beethoven, Johannes Brahms, Anton Bruckner, and Gustav Mahler.
How people feel after they have listened to a symphony?
People often feel emotions such as joy, sadness and anger after listening to a symphony.
The first reason for this is that the symphony may remind them of some happy or sad moment in their past.
The second reason is that they can identify with the music.
For example, if the music has a high pitch, it might make people feel scared or anxious.
Do classical music is relevant in today’s society?
In a world where everything is becoming digital, classical music is still relevant. Classical music has been around for centuries and it will continue to be around for centuries to come. It is a timeless art form that can be appreciated by all generations.
The relevance of classical music in today’s society cannot be denied. It has been around for centuries and will continue to be around for centuries to come. Its appeal transcends all generations, allowing people from all walks of life the chance to enjoy it.
What are the best symphonies to listen to when you need to relax?
There are many different types of symphonies. Classical, Romantic, Baroque, Symphonic Rock and even Symphonic Metal. But what is the best symphony to listen to when you need to relax?
The best symphony for relaxing would be a symphony that calms you down and helps you feel relaxed. The first thing people usually think of when they think about relaxing is classical music. Classical music has been around for centuries and much of it was written as a form of entertainment or to be played in churches and cathedrals. It has a very calming tone that can help people feel more relaxed.
Another type of music that could help people relax is romantic music which is also called “lounge”. Romantic music is often played in restaurants or hotels as background noise while guests are dining or drinking their coffee or tea.
Which symphonies are considered to be masterpieces?
The term masterpiece is often used to describe a work of art that is considered the most important work of a particular artist or art movement.
In music, the term masterpiece is applied to compositions that are considered to be among the most important in the canon of Western classical music and typically one of many works by a composer deemed to have been a great genius.
Why is Mozart considered to be one of the greatest composers ever?
Mozart is considered to be one of the greatest composers ever because he was able to produce an immense amount of work in a short time. He composed more than 600 pieces in his lifetime and many of them are still played today.
What are the most famous pieces from Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D minor?
The Requiem Mass in D minor is a work by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It was composed in Vienna from 1791 to 1792 and is scored for soloists, choir, and orchestra.
The most famous pieces of the Requiem Mass are Lacrimosa, Dies irae, and Lacrimosa dies illa.
Who wrote Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67?
Ludwig van Beethoven is the composer of the Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67.