Conducted by Günter Wand, the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra performs Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 5 in B-flat major, D. 485. This performance was recorded during the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival in Kiel, Germany, in 1997.

Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 5

Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 5 in B♭ major, D. 485, stands as a youthful and vibrant work, completed on October 3, 1816, just six months after he finished his preceding symphony. Crafted primarily throughout September of the same year, this symphony is distinguished by its notably modest orchestration and a clear Mozartian influence that permeates its character.

Uniquely among Schubert’s symphonic creations, Symphony No. 5 employs the smallest ensemble, consisting of one flute, two oboes, two bassoons, two horns in B♭ and E♭, and strings. This selective instrumentation omits clarinets, trumpets, and timpani, earning the symphony an occasional nickname as “the symphony without trumpets and drums.” Such a choice contributes to the work’s lighter, more transparent texture, which, in conjunction with its melodic and harmonic qualities, reflects Schubert’s deep admiration for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Indeed, Schubert’s infatuation with Mozart is well documented, including in a diary entry from June 13 of the same year, where he passionately praises Mozart’s everlasting impact on his soul. This veneration is mirrored in the symphony’s composition, both in its orchestration, reminiscent of the first version of Mozart’s 40th Symphony which also lacked clarinets, and in thematic elements. For instance, a notable similarity exists between the opening theme of the second movement of D. 485 and the finale of Mozart’s Violin Sonata in F major, K. 377, highlighting the profound influence Mozart had on Schubert’s musical expressions in this work.

Through its elegant and effervescent character, Symphony No. 5 offers a fascinating glimpse into Schubert’s musical development, showcasing his ability to blend classical forms and his own lyrical style. This symphony, therefore, not only honors the classical traditions exemplified by Mozart but also paves the way for Schubert’s unique contributions to the symphonic repertoire, marking it as a significant work in the broader context of early 19th-century music.


With the start times in the video:

  1. Allegro 00:15
  2. Andante con moto 07:05
  3. Menuetto. Allegro molto – Trio 18:02
  4. Allegro vivace 23:12

1. Allegro

The first movement of Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 5 in B♭ major, D. 485, is marked “Allegro,” and it exemplifies the youthful energy and classical clarity that defines the symphony as a whole. This movement, like the rest of the symphony, is deeply infused with the spirit of Mozart, reflecting Schubert’s admiration for the classical master during this period of his life.

Characterized by its vivacity and elegance, the Allegro opens with a light and lyrical theme that sets the tone for the movement. The orchestration, though modest, is used to its fullest potential, allowing the interplay of strings with winds to create a texture that is both transparent and richly expressive. The thematic material is developed with a sense of grace and balance, showcasing Schubert’s skill in weaving together melodies and harmonies in a way that feels both fresh and deeply rooted in the classical tradition.

The structure of the movement follows the classical sonata form, consisting of an exposition, development, and recapitulation, which was typical of the time. Schubert, however, brings his own unique voice to this form, introducing themes that are immediately engaging and employing harmonic progressions that, while reminiscent of Mozart, hint at the Romantic sensibilities that would later become more pronounced in his music.

Throughout the Allegro, there is a dynamic contrast between the themes and sections, yet the movement maintains a cohesive sense of forward motion and lyrical flow. This balance between contrast and continuity is one of the hallmarks of Schubert’s symphonic writing, allowing him to explore emotional depth without sacrificing the clarity and formality of the classical symphony.

2. Andante con moto

The second movement of Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 5 in B♭ major, D. 485, is marked “Andante con moto,” and it presents a striking contrast to the light-hearted and energetic first movement. This movement delves into a more introspective and nuanced emotional landscape, showcasing Schubert’s exceptional ability to convey depth and subtlety through melody and orchestration.

Characterized by its gentle and expressive melodic lines, the Andante con moto is a showcase of Schubert’s lyrical genius. The movement unfolds with a serene and tender theme, carried primarily by the strings, with woodwinds adding color and depth to the texture. This thematic material is developed through variations that explore different harmonies and dynamics, creating a rich tapestry of sound that is both soothing and emotionally resonant.

The movement is structured to allow for a gradual unfolding of the musical ideas, with each variation building upon the last in a way that deepens the emotional impact of the piece. Schubert employs subtle shifts in harmony and dynamics to create moments of tension and release, drawing the listener into a reflective and meditative state.

One of the notable aspects of this movement is its similarity to themes found in Mozart’s work, a reflection of Schubert’s admiration for the composer. Despite these influences, the Andante con moto maintains a distinctively Schubertian quality, with a warmth and intimacy that are unique to his compositional voice. The movement’s beauty lies in its simplicity and the purity of its melodic lines, which speak directly to the listener’s emotions without the need for grandiose gestures or dramatic contrasts.

3. Menuetto. Allegro molto

The third movement of Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 5 in B♭ major, D. 485, is a “Menuetto: Allegro molto” with a trio section, adhering to the classical symphony structure’s tradition of including a minuet and trio as the third movement. This part of the symphony is particularly noteworthy for its energy and rhythmic vitality, which distinguish it from the more stately minuets found in the works of earlier composers like Mozart and Haydn.

Schubert’s minuet in this symphony is faster and more spirited than traditional minuets, reflecting a shift towards the scherzo that would become more prevalent in the symphonies of later composers. Despite this vivacity, the movement retains a graceful elegance, characteristic of Schubert’s style, weaving together lyrical melodies with harmonious accompaniments.

The trio section provides a contrast to the minuet, typically offering a more lyrical and serene moment. In Schubert’s hands, this contrast is beautifully realized, showcasing his ability to craft melodies of exquisite beauty and emotional depth. The trio often serves as a moment of respite from the brisk energy of the minuet, allowing listeners to savor Schubert’s melodic inventiveness.

Following the trio, the minuet section returns, rounding off the movement with a sense of balance and symmetry. This return to the minuet reinforces the dance-like character of the movement, while also highlighting Schubert’s skill in structural design and thematic development.

4. Allegro vivace

The fourth movement of Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 5 in B♭ major, D. 485, is marked “Allegro vivace,” and it serves as a brilliant and energetic conclusion to the symphony. This finale embodies the youthful exuberance and optimism that permeate the entire work, showcasing Schubert’s remarkable ability to blend classical forms with his own unique melodic and harmonic innovations.

In this movement, Schubert demonstrates a masterful command of the classical sonata form, which consists of an exposition, development, and recapitulation, imbuing it with a sense of freshness and vitality. The movement opens with a lively theme that immediately captures the listener’s attention, characterized by its rhythmic drive and melodic appeal. This theme sets the stage for a movement that is both cohesive in its development and varied in its exploration of themes and textures.

The development section delves into more adventurous harmonic territory, as Schubert manipulates and varies the initial themes, demonstrating his compositional skill and creative imagination. This section builds tension and complexity, which is then resolved in the recapitulation, where the main themes return in a reaffirmed and triumphant manner.

Throughout the Allegro vivace, Schubert’s orchestration shines, making effective use of the smaller ensemble to achieve a rich and dynamic sound. The interplay between the strings and winds adds to the texture and color of the music, while the rhythmic precision and vitality of the movement propel it forward, leading to an exhilarating finale.

The fourth movement is a fitting conclusion to the symphony, encapsulating the work’s classical elegance and Schubert’s innovative spirit. It leaves the listener with a sense of joy and admiration for Schubert’s genius, highlighting his ability to convey profound beauty and excitement within the classical symphonic form. This movement, like the rest of Symphony No. 5, reflects Schubert’s deep respect for the traditions of Mozart and Haydn, even as it hints at the more expressive and emotional style that would come to define the Romantic era.


M. Özgür Nevres

Published by M. Özgür Nevres

I am Özgür Nevres, a software engineer, a former road racing cyclist, and also an amateur musician. I opened to share my favorite music. I also take care of stray cats & dogs. This website's all income goes directly to our furry friends. Please consider supporting me on Patreon, so I can help more animals!

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