11-28: Steppenwolf Fillmore West 1968 - Lennie Tristano Toronto 1952 - Havergal Brian Symphony 1 Gothic / Lenard 1989 - Haydn Symphony 93 94 Surprise 95 / Bernstein 1971-1972

1585 – Hernando Franco (Spanish composer, active in Guatemala & Mexico)
1695 – Giovanni Paolo Colonna (Italian organist & composer)
1815 – Johann Peter Salomon (German violinist, impresario, composer & conductor, active in London, associate of Haydn)
1860 – Ludwig Rellstab (German poet & music critic)
1861 – Robert Führer (Czech composer)
1878 – Marco Aurelio Zani de Ferranti (Italian guitarist & composer)
1907 – Ricardo Castro Herrera (Mexican pianist & composer)
1918 – Alexis Contant (Canadian composer, organist, pianist & teacher)
1935 – Erich von Hornbostel (Austrian ethnomusicologist, musical psychologist & co-author of Sachs-Hornbostel system)
1966 – Vittorio Giannini (American composer & violinist)
1972 – Havergal Brian (English composer of 32 symphonies, including the largest-scale ever performed)
1972 – Gustave Frederic Soderlund (Swedish composer, music theorist, author & teacher)
1976 – Robert Fleming (Canadian composer, pianist, organist, choirmaster & teacher)
1987 – Paul Arma [Amrusz Pál] (Hungarian-born French pianist, composer & ethnomusicologist)
1989 – Jo Vincent (Dutch soprano)
1993 – Jerry Edmonton (Canadian rock drummer, Steppenwolf)
1994 – Al Levitt (American jazz drummer, active also in France & the Canary Islands)
1996 – Anna Pollak (Austrian-born British mezzo-soprano)
2002 – Dave "Snaker" Ray (American blues singer, songwriter & guitarist)
2007 – Gudrun Wagner (German co-director of Bayreuth Festival along with husband Wolfgang, grandson of Richard)

Today, we get two very different looks at that most elevated instrumental genre of them all - the symphony!

First, thanks to Johann Peter Salomon, the impresario who brought Franz Joseph Haydn to London between 1791 and 1795 to regale the English public with what would turn out to be his last twelve symphonic statements - we have works which represent, along with the last few of Mozart, the ones that are definitive of the genre during the Classical period (at least until Beethoven got to it and transformed what it meant for all time). These symphonies of Haydn (nos. 93 thru 104), usually called his "London Symphonies," are sometimes instead called the "Salomon Symphonies" in honor of the man without whom they likely would never have been written.

Then, we have a very different product - what the symphony had grown into by a century or more later. No longer is it merely the vehicle for the composer's loftiest philosophical ideas. After Berlioz, and Liszt, and Bruckner, it's become something of a monstrosity, a paean to the cult of the gigantic, at least among late-Romantic composers with "progressive" or "modernist" tendencies. And in Havergal Brian's Symphony No. 1, "The Gothic" (completed in 1927), we find the sine qua non of this development, a work that surpasses even Gustav Mahler's largest creations (his 2nd, 3rd, and 8th symphonies) in its length (close to 2 hours) and in the performing forces it requires (nearly 200 instrumentalists, plus several hundred singers).

Brian's "Gothic" has even won a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the "largest-scale symphony" ever written. However, some claim that the Symphony No. 3 by Kaikhosru Sorabji is even longer - a believable claim, if you know anything about Sorabji. However, that symphony (like many of Sorabji's more humungous creations) has yet to be performed by anyone, so it's difficult to say. 

Oh, symphony... how far you've come, since the early 18th century when you were just a multi-sectional overture to an opera or oratorio! Baby symphony done all growed up and ever'thang.


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