Thursday, 5 January 2017

A Symphony A Day ... why?

On the morning of 1 January 2017, I decided to listen to Brahms' First Symphony. I don't know whether it was listening to a first symphony on the first day of the year that triggered it, but I suddenly had a mad idea to try to carry this practice on throughout the whole year. I thus resolved to listen to a symphony a day for the whole of 2017.

This apparently straightforward resolution instantly became more of a challenge than I had first envisaged. For a start, finding 365 different symphonies to listen to is no mean task in itself. Yes, I could be lazy and rattle through all 104 Haydn symphonies and the 120-plus attributed to Dittersdorf (assuming recordings of them all exist) and I'd be two-thirds of the way there - but where would be the fun in that? Well, none whatsoever if it involved listening to that much Haydn. No, I was determined to spread the load a bit and cover all symphonic bases, so to speak.

I haven't imposed too many rules upon myself, but not overly favouring one composer or time period was one. A maximum of 15 symphonies by any given composer seemed fair, as this would allow all of Shostakovich's output while permitting me to be more selective from the oeuvre of more prolific composers such as Mozart or JC Bach. Anything calling itself a symphony qualifies: so the organ symphonies of Widor, or Glenn Branca's insane compositions for mass orchestras of electric guitars are all valid. By the end of the year, I should have produced a cross-section the entire history of the symphony - even if that involves listening to music I don't actually like very much.

So, on with the show.


  1. Thank you for your interesting project! We're glad you included a few works by women!

  2. I came up with a similar idea recently, just after the beginning of lockdown in the UK. Some days I've listened to more than one. I didn't set out to do this for a year, though I may do. Finding the symphonies is a challenge, so I'm pleased to come across your list and to see some of the similarities and differences.