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Symphony No 9, in C Major

Franz Schubert

1. Andante. Allegro ma non troppo.

2. Andante con moto.

3. Scherzo. Allegro vivace.

4. Finale. Allegro vivace.

The Symphony in C, the last and culminating work of Schubert's genius, is literally his swan song. It was begun in March, 1828, and on the nineteenth on November of the same year he passed away. On the twelfth of December following his death, it was produced at the Redouten-Saal in Vienna, and was repeated in the ensuing March. It was then neglected and forgotten until 1838, in which year Schumann visited Vienna, and, finding the score, obtained permission to take it with him. He at once went to Leipzig, where Mendelssohn was at that time conducting the Gewandhaus concerts, and together the two friends and composers studied it. It did not take them long to discover its beauty, notwithstanding its length. It was performed at the Gewandhaus, March 22, 1839.

The first movement opens with an introductory Andante, the tender, fairy-like melody of which is assigned to the horns alone, afterward repeated by oboes and clarinets. After working up at some length a start is made pianissimo, and a grand crescendo, enlivened by a triplet figure, leads to the Allegro, the strings giving out the bold, decisive first theme answered by the winds in triplets. The second theme, stated in the oboes and bassoons, is in striking contrast with the first, and really establishes the rhythm of the movement. An episode growing out of this theme, and a third broad subject in which the trombones are employed with striking effect, constitute the principal material of the movement. The Coda is long and copious, closing in rather accelerated tempo marked by a repetition of the triplet figure of the initial theme.

The Andante opens with a short prelude in the strings, after which the oboe starts off with the first theme -- a quaint, plaintive, bewitching strain which has every characteristic of gypsy music, closing with a significant four-note cadence which seems to have haunted Schubert throughout the rest of the work. The theme is repeated with variation and the addition of the clarinet, after which the oboe gives out a new phrase succeeded by an episode of an agitated, even furious, character, after which the fascinating first theme returns. The second subject, entering pianissimo, is ingeniously treated, and closes with a charming horn episode. The opening subject then returns, this time for oboe, which soon plays its part as accompaniment for a charming solo passage for the cello. A change of key, and the second subject returns with fresh treatment. The horn episode is heard again, and the movement closes with the fascinating opening theme.

The Scherzo starts with a unison passage for strings, followed by a boisterous episode in the oboes and horns, in which the four beats already alluded to make themselves felt. The second subject, given out by the strings, with accompaniment of clarinets and bassoons, is light and playful in character. The trio opens with horns and clarinets, leading to a broad melody in the winds, with string accompaniment, producing a brilliant orchestral effect and with the Scherzo, da capo, the movement closes.

The Finale crowns this extraordinary work with a fitting climax, impetuous and resistant in its rush, with the four beats asserting themselves all through it. After an introduction of a most energetic and sonorous character, the first theme is announced in the oboes and bassoons, with the violins accompanying in triplets of fiery velocity. The second theme is led off by the horns, the violins still in the mad, impetuous sweep of their triplets, and the first half of the movement closes with a working-out of part of the second theme. The second part is fiery in its energy, and closes with an immense crescendo, beginning with the violas, double pianissimo, and spreading over hundred and sixty-four measures before coming to a final rest.

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See also:
Middle Ages Music
Renaissance Music
Baroque Era Music
Classical Era Music
Romantic Era Music
Nationalist Era Music
Turn of Century Music

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