Schubert – Unfinished Symphony (Wiener Philharmoniker)

Conducted by Seiji Ozawa, the Wiener Philharmoniker (Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra) performs Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 in B minor, D.759, commonly known as the “Unfinished Symphony”.

The piece is sometimes renumbered as Symphony No. 7,in accordance with the revised Deutsch catalogue and the Neue Schubert-Ausgabe. Schubert started in 1822 but left with only two movements-though he lived for another six years. There is also a scherzo also survives, nearly completed in piano score but with only two pages orchestrated.

The completed two movements of the unfinished symphony are:

  1. Allegro moderato in B minor
  2. Andante con moto in E major.

While there are many musical reasons for its extraordinary power, there may be some biographical factors, too. The syphilis that would kill him six years later had its first serious effects on Schubert’s health in 1822: there’s a fearlessness and directness about this symphony that may come from Schubert’s experience of a world of darkness and pain he had not previously encountered.

Franz Schubert

Franz Schubert
Oil portrait painting of Franz Schubert by Wilhelm August Rieder, after his own 1825 watercolor portrait, Vienna Museum, 1875

Despite dying at only age thirty-one (31 January 1797 – 19 November 1828), Austrian composer Schubert was extremely prolific. His output consists of over six hundred secular vocal works (mainly Lieder), seven complete symphonies, sacred music, operas, incidental music and a large body of chamber and piano music. Appreciation of his music while he was alive was limited to a relatively small circle of admirers in Vienna, but interest in his work increased significantly in the decades following his death. Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt, Johannes Brahms and other 19th-century composers discovered and championed his works. Today, Schubert is ranked among the greatest composers of the early Romantic era and, as such, is one of the most frequently performed composers of the early nineteenth century.


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