Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Romantic Era > Symphony No 8, in B Minor ("Unfinished") - Schubert
Symphony No 8, in B Minor ("Unfinished")
1. Allegro moderato.
2. Andante con moto.
Schubert's Eighth Symphony is but a fragment. The first two movements are complete. There are nine bars of a Scherzo, and with them the symphony stops; and yet among all of the composer's works not one is more beautiful in ideas or more perfect in form than this. No more of it has ever been found, and no one known why Schubert abandoned it. The first page of the score is dated, "Vienna, October 30, 1822." The first performance was given at the Crystal Palace, London, on the sixth of April in the same year. Since that time the symphony has become one of the favorite numbers on the concert stage.
The Allegro opens at once and without introduction with an impressive subject given out by the cellos and basses. At its close the oboes and clarinets take up a melodious theme pianissimo, the violins accompanying it in an agitated manner. After a short development of this theme the cellos enter with a melody which will never cease to fascinate the hearer with its wonderful beauty and grace of motion. After its repetition by the violins in octaves there comes a pause followed by a most passionate declaration in the minor, as if to drown the memory of the former moment of happiness. The beautiful theme again returns, however, and the first part of the movement closes with a struggle between these expressions of perfect happiness and wild passion. The second part opens with the original subject varied for the basses, which is grandly developed amid full orchestral outburst up to a powerful climax. As it dies away the first theme reenters, and is again treated with charming variety, the whole closing with another climax in which the opening subject forms the material of the Coda.
The Andante begins with an introductory passage in the horns and bassoons, the double basses accompanying pizzocato, leading up to another lovely theme given out by the violins. After a striking development of this theme the second subject is stated in the clarinets with string accompaniment, repeated by the oboe with the addition of a new phrase, in which the flute joins. The whole orchestra follows with stately harmony, succeeded by an episode which leads up to a new treatment of the second theme in the strings. Then follows the customary repetition in brilliant detail. The Coda is full of melodious beauty, and closes this delightful work.