Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Two Schubert Symphonies


This is my post from this week's Tuesday Blog.


For the last few Once Upon the Internet posts in our monthly series, I shared some "complete" recordings I downloaded from now defunct sites. Today's share is from the old Public Domain Classicsite, but borrows from two separate recordings.

As I stated not so long ago on a post, when we think of Schubert, we think lieder and other intimate settings and not necessarily of symphonies. That having been said, Schubert did leave us 12 works (many of them fragmentary) that are in the symphonic form, and eight of hem (including the "Unfinished") are part of the repertoire, though some get performed mire often than others.

Among the more performed, we find the two symphonies in C Major - the sixth and ninth - are among my favourites. The sixth sometimes called "little" C Major to distinguish it from the more ambitious ninth is not "little"a t all. It is very much in the classical vein - in the form pioneered by Haydn and perfected by Mozart that Beethoven had set about shattering when Schubert was still a nursing infant.

That Franz Schubert, as a young man still learning his craft, was more influenced by the music of Haydn and Mozart than by the symphonies of Beethoven (just then reaching their stride) is readily apparent in his early orchestral works; the Symphony No. 4 in C minor, D. 417 (the "Tragic" Symphony, as Schubert called it), composed during the spring of 1816, is no exception. Despite the frequent comparisons made between this work and Beethoven's famous symphony in the same key, it is difficult to think of another symphonic work from the 1810s that more completely ignores Beethoven's special contributions to dramatic orchestral writing.




The performances I chose are in good hands - Igor Markevitch studied composition under Nadia Boulanger and in spite of relative success as a composer early on, he is best remembered as a conductor, best known for his performance of the Russian repertoire and twentieth century music. He had a quick temper, reflected in his music in sharp emotional shifts, yet the music was meticulously prepared and nearly always followed the composer's directions with exceptional care. In the late 1990s, his recordings came back into demand in re-release, and even his compositions were finding a small but interested market and were praised anew for their originality.


Sir Thomas Beecham, known as a promoter of classical music in Brutain and as an orchestra builder. In 1932, Beecham, dissatisfied with the standards of the orchestral scene, founded the London Philharmonic Orchestra, staffing it with the finest players. It quickly became a top-rank ensemble and successfully toured the Continent.

Both conductors are featured today in vintage recordings.

Happy Listening!


Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Symphony No.4 in C Minor, D.417 ('Tragic')
Berliner Philharmoniker
Igor Markevitch, conducting

Symphony No.6 in C Major, D.589 ('Little C Major')
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Sir Thomas Beecham, conducting.