Thursday, January 8, 2015

Schubert's Eighth: The Unfinished

Why is Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 unfinished? Last time, we talked about this famous work, looking at what the composer left behind. Since then, scholars have speculated as to why he never completed the work. While we have some good guesses, the reason still remains unknown.

It is interesting to note that Schubert’s Eighth Symphony was not his only unfinished work. Scholars have found various other pieces from this period that the composer abandoned. We do know that this particular work is dated October 30, 1822 and was left with Schubert’s colleague Anselm HĂĽttenbrenner following the completion of the first two movements. Perhaps Schubert was content to just have the two movements performed alone? Or maybe he was hoping to receive some sort of feedback from his friend, which he never received, before moving forward with the work? Did Schubert perhaps lack confidence in his symphony? We know that he often feared falling into the shadow of the great Beethoven who mastered the art of symphonic composition.


It wasn’t long after the date written on the score that Schubert contracted syphilis. He didn’t pass away, however, until six years later. This symphony was never referenced during Schubert’s lifetime. It wasn’t until 1865 that the work was discovered and given a premiere, adding the finale of his Symphony No. 3 to create a “finished” work. Since then, others have attempted tagging on various endings but, in my opinion, the piece is perfect in its original form! What do you think? 

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