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Schubert Symphony no.8, B minor, "The Unfinished"
Franz Schubert

Time of composition: October 1822, Vienna
Duration of performance: c. 23 minutes
First performance: December 15th, 1865, in the Redoutensaal of the Vienna Hofburg
Orchestra: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, drums, strings.


The B minor symphony is Schubert’s most famous work among his symphonies. Exact details as to the history of the work are not available. What is certain is that Schubert composed it in autumn 1822. The first and the second movement were finished (cf. the name "The Unfinished"); of the third movement (Scherzo) only 9 bars exist, then there is a sketch up to the Trio. Attempts at completing the movement with the help of the existing material were made by Felix Weingartner (1863-1942, cf. Österreich-Lexikon"), conductor and composer, but rejected by the musical world.


Probably Schubert planned to dedicate the work to the Styrian Music Society in Graz, perhaps also to Anselm Hüttenbrenner, a friend of Schubert’s and a committee member of this society.

Anselm Hüttenbrenner, 1794-1868, came from Graz and was Schubert’s friend and also a composer. After 1825 he was chairman of the Styrian Music Society.

The Styrian Music Society made Schubert their honorary member in 1823 (he was 26 then). Schubert thanked them by composing a symphony and sent the score (later called "The Unfinished") to his friend Anselm Hüttenbrenner in Graz. The latter kept the score in his house. When Court Kapellmeister Johann Herbeck got to know of this present through Anselm’s brother Joseph, he went to see Anselm H. at Ober-Andritz near Graz and found the autograph of "The Unfinished" there. (Joseph Hüttenbrenner, 1796-1882, was official at the Home Ministry and occasionally Schubert’s factotum.)

Herbeck organised a first performance on Dec.17th, 1865 in the Great Redoutensaal of the Vienna Hofburg. As a conclusion Herbeck chose the Finale of the 3rd symphony in D major. But already at the second performance on Nov.4th,1866 only the first two movements were played.

Wording of Eduard Hanslick’s critical analysis after the first performance.

First publication

The B minor symphony was first published in 1866. In the complete edition by Breitkopf & Härtel in 1885 it was given the number 8 and the later Great C major the number 7. This corresponds to the chronological sequence in which the works were found and first performed.

Present-day numbering of the symphony

Today the numbering corresponds to the time of composition. From this point of view the "Unifinished" of 1822 is the 7th, the lost "Gmundner-Gasteiner" of 1825 the 8th and the Great C major of 1828 the 9th symphony. The numbering of the B Minor as the 8th goes back to Johannes Brahms in his complete edition of Schubert’s work.

Importance of the B minor symphony

The "Unfinished" belongs to those works of music history that open up a new world of symphonic instrumental music. This new period is called the Romantic era in music. If we dissect music into its components, we see that the general impression is determined by: melody, harmony, rhythm, dynamism (volume) and instrumentation which creates a special sonority. In the case of Schubert, the "prince of songs" and particularly in the "Unfinished" 2 components predominate: melody and sonority. The song-like themes have been created with the help of the sonorous individuality of certain instruments. The 19th century art of instrumentation is strongly reflected in the "Unfinished" and puts sonority on an equal footing as the other components: rhythm, dynamism and harmony.


1st movement: Allegro moderato

2nd movement: Allegro con moto

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