Read these directions. Then click the appropriate button. TO DETERMINE TOTAL NUMBER OF SYMPHONIES - COUNT symphonies NUMBERED 1 and up. E.g. “Symphony No. 1,” “Symphony No. 3 ‘Rhenish’,” “Symphony No. 537” but NOT “Symphony No. 0” or “Manfred Symphony”. - COUNT incomplete symphonies as fractions. E.g. if 2 out of 4 movements were composed, that’s half a symphony. - If the composer only has one symphony, it doesn’t need a number. “Symphony in [key]” is fine.
Ok, who composed the most symphonies?
Haydn gets credit for 104 numbered symphonies! He established the symphonic form that would be copied, revised, and expanded for the next 200 years. Who comes in second?
When Mozart died at 35, he had composed at least 38 symphonies. (2, 3, and 37 aren't really his.) That's only two less than Haydn had by that age. Had Mozart, like Haydn, lived to 77, he might have become the record holder. After Mozart, the next most prolific symphony composer was...
Shostakovich lived to be 68 and composed 15 symphonies. Of course, he labeled things as “symphonies” that other composers might not have. The next composer on this list would easily beat Shostakovich if we took into consideration the length of each symphony and the other works that might have been called “Symphony No. [X]” but weren’t. Click on that next composer.
Mahler left us 9 symphonies and detailed sketches for a 10th, including 2 orchestrated movements. Five of those symphonies run for over 75 minutes each. Also, Mahler had “Das Lied von Der Erde,” which could easily have been called a symphony. Sorry, Gustav. You da man, but Shostakovich wins on points. After Mahler, there’s...
Yep. Bruckner usually gets credit for 9. But his death left the 9th one movement short. 8.75 symphonies. And we’re not counting his rejected symphonies 0 and 00, even though they do get performed. Who comes next?
Right! Schubert tried to pretend he had 9. But we all know about the 8th, aka the “Unfinished”. Only two movements long. That's only half a symphony. We tend to forget about the 7th because, you know, Schubert did. Schubert's tally is 7.5 symphonies. After Schubert comes...
Correct. We’ll put him down for 7. In 1931, Sibelius claimed to have an 8th almost ready for the printers. If he did, he likely burned the results along with other compositions in the mid-1940s. Just imagine what might have been. For starters, I could’ve used Sibelius for the 8-symphony slot, and added Prokofiev, a 7-symphony composer, to this quiz. (But Prokofiev composed two DIFFERENT Symphony No. 4s. So maybe just leave that alone.) Instead, who’s on the next rung down?
That’s the guy. 6 symphonies (since we're not counting the unnumbered “Manfred Symphony”). After Tchaikovsky comes...
Five symphonies for Felix! Nos. 1, 5, 4, 2, and 3 (in order of composition). He gets no credit here for his 12 “string symphonies” composed between the ages of 12 and 14. Pick the man with the next lower total.
Brahms it is! He lived as long as Mozart and Schubert combined but only gave us four symphonies. I’m not sure what the holdup was. Pick the next composer.
Saint-Saëns wrote five but withdrew the first and the third, leaving three numbered symphonies. Of those, only No. 3, the “Organ Symphony,” gets regularly performed. Who wrote even fewer symphonies?
Elgar was 51 when he finished his first symphony. That timetable only allowed him to finish one more. He was working on a third when he died at age 76. Who composed less than that?
Bizet’s one symphony was surprisingly good for a 17-year-old student. But he decided to be an opera composer when he grew up. Hector Berlioz never wrote a numbered symphony, but he did write the “Symphonie Fantastique” and “Symphonie Funèbre et Triomphale” as well as “Roméo et Juliette” (a “symphonie dramatique” for mixed voices and orchestra), and “Harold en Italie” (a “Symphony in Four Parts with Viola Obbligato”). By the rules of this quiz, Berlioz gets credit for ZERO symphonies, possibly the most prolific symphony composer to have this distinction. Go ahead and click on him to end this quiz.