Saturday, 16 February 2013


“To love beauty is to see light.” - Victor Hugo

A Schubert symphony for Music Saturday. Amongst the classical composers, Franz Schubert (1797-1828) is one of my favourites in terms of his tuneful melodies, lovely harmonies and wonderful musicality. Besides his amazing lieder, there is a treasure trove to be discovered in his orchestral works.

The fifth of Schubert's nine numbered symphonies was written in 1816 and was performed in October, a month after its composition, at the house of Otto Hatwig, a violinist in the Burgtheater orchestra. The musicians concerned were otherwise amateurs from the group that had been accustomed to meet at the house of Schubert’s father.

The music is in the tradition of what Schubert in his diary that year described as the magic sound of Mozart, the immortal. It is scored for flute, pairs of oboes, bassoons and horns, with strings, while the Unfinished Symphony was to make use of a larger orchestra that included clarinets, trombones, trumpets and drums.

The first movement leads us through the charm of its principal melodic material to an excursion into stranger keys, until a recapitulation that opens with the first theme in the key of E fiat, before the original key of the movement is restored. There follows a slow movement that is in that essentially Viennese operatic idiom of which Mozart was the greatest exponent, succeeded by a lively Minuet and Trio in the keys of G minor and G major respectively. The symphony ends with a finale that contains all the dramatic contrasts that the customary form encourages.

Here are Les Musiciens du Louvre, conducted by Mark Minkowski playing this bright and beautiful symphony.


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