Category Archives: 1900-1950

90: Nielsen’s Symphony No. 4 “The Inextinguishable”

Our second Nielsen symphony on the list is another symphony about conflict and struggle. Nielsen’s Fifth symphony was written in the aftermath of World War I; his Fourth would be written in the midst of it. The idea for the … Continue reading

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91: Nielsen’s Symphony No. 5

Carl Nielsen began writing his fifth symphony in 1920 in the aftermath of World War I. He says he was not consciously thinking of the war when he wrote it, but “not one of us is the same as we … Continue reading

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92: Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 4

In 1935 Joseph Stalin was shaping Soviet Russia into a new world. Russia was still largely agrarian, uneducated, and backward. He feared the Western nations and was determined to catch up to them. He began industrializing the nation at an … Continue reading

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93: Sibelius’s Symphony No. 6

Jean Sibelius’s Sixth Symphony was completed in early 1923. While Sibelius did not indicate a key in the score it is often given the key of D minor, which is the saddest of all keys, I find. I don’t know … Continue reading

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94: Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms

Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms was written in 1930 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The Orchestra’s conductor Serge Kussevitsky requested Stravinsky write a symphony to commemorate the occasion and commissioned the work. Although written for the … Continue reading

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95: Rachmaninoff’s The Bells Symphony

The Bells was the third symphony written by Sergei Rachmaninoff in 1913. He considered it to be his third symphony after writing it, but later wrote and instrumental Third Symphony. The composition is based on a loose translation of Edgar Allen … Continue reading

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Gustav Holst’s The Planets

Here is another piece I was introduced to in high school. If you attend enough marching band competitions, chances are sooner or later you will hear an arrangement of “Mars”, “Venus”, and “Jupiter” from English composer Gustav Holst’s The Planets. … Continue reading

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