Trivia Questions and Answers
How many composers can you name who composed exactly four symphonies? Is there a famous composer who we could argue composed only four symphonies, even though he composed as many as 17?
Answer from the Music Director:
In addition to Franz Berwald, whose First Symphony the Chamber Orchestra recently performed, the obvious answers are Brahms and Schumann, who each left four symphonies. Schumann almost finished a fifth, but left the three movements to stand on their own as Overture, Scherzo and Finale, op. 52. Other major composers we might add to this list are Hector Berlioz (though he didn't number his symphonies), Albert Roussel, Charles Ives, Michael Tippett and Witold Lutoslawski.
Mendelssohn is the wild card in this discussion. Technically, we count five symphonies in his output, but Mendelssohn dismissed his Fifth Symphony, the "Reformation," as "a piece of juvenilia" and did not want it numbered in his symphonies. He also composed 12 "practice symphonies" for strings, the eighth of which he rescored for full orchestra, but abandoned all of them. It's only because his parents kept them that we have them today. They are usually referred to as his twelve 'sinfonias' for strings.
And if you are curious about other composers who composed four symphonies, here is a partial list:
Frederick the Great
Joachim Nicolas Eggert
Napoléon Henri Reber
Johann Josef Netzer
Johann von Herbeck
Jan van Gilse
Paul Le Flem
Luís de Freitas Branco
Ross Lee Finney
Paul W. Whear
W. Francis McBeth
Johan de Meij
How many similarities can you name between Saint-Saëns' Organ Symphony and Widor's Third Symphony for organ and orchestra?
List of possible answers from the Music Director:
The most obvious difference between the two symphonies? Saint-Saëns added two pianos to the orchestra; Widor did not.