10 Forgotten Symphonic Masterworks

by Mitchell Estrin

There are many valid reasons for modern orchestras to program symphonies by the great masters. Magnificent symphonies by composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Brahms, Dvořák, Mahler, and Shostakovich are performed regularly and are longstanding audience favorites. 

There are many other forgotten masterworks that, for one reason or another, have not received the recognition they deserve or regular programming. I have created a list of ten of my favorite pieces that fall into the “forgotten” category. I enjoyed compiling the list and experiencing these works again. I hope you will enjoy them too!

Here are 10 of my favorite forgotten symphonic masterworks. Happy listening!

Symphony No. 1 in G minor (1808) 

Étienne Nicolas Méhul(1763-1817) 

Méhul has been called the French Beethoven.

Symphony in C major, WWV 29 (1832) 

Richard Wagner (1813-1883) 

An early work that offers an insightful glimpse at what is yet to be composed by Wagner.

Faust Symphony, S. 108 (premiered in 1857) 

Franz Liszt (1811-1866) 

A magnificently epic work by the great master.

Rustic Wedding Symphony, Op. 26 (1875) 

Karl Goldmark (1830-1913) 

A unique and charming work by this often overlooked composer.

Asrael Symphony in C minor, Op. 27 (1906) 

Josef Suk (1874-1935) 

A brilliant and dramatic work written in memory of his wife Otilie and his teacher and father-in law, Antonín Dvořák.

Symphony in E-flat major, Op. 1 (1907) 

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) 

Stravinsky’s first published work and very much in the style of his teacher Rimsky-Korsakov. Quite a different style from The Firebird, which premiered just 3 years later in 1910.

Symphony No. 1 in A-flat major, Op. 55 (1908)

Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934)
The composer of Enigma Variations and the Pomp and Circumstance marches completed two grand symphonies and left extended sketches for a third.

Symphony No. 3 in C major (Symphony-Poem) (1947) 

Aram Khachaturian (1903-1978) 

Khachaturian’s spectacular last symphony is written in one extended movement and features organ and fifteen trumpets.

Symphony No. 6 in E minor (1948) 

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) 

Vaughan Williams was one of the greatest and most unrecognized symphonists of the twentieth century. 

Symphony No. 6, ("Fantaisies symphoniques") H. 343 (1953)

Bohuslav Martinů (1890-1959) 

The final symphony written by an underrated composer who wrote with a unique musical voice.

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