Symphony No. 9 in C major (“The Great”), D. 944

Composed in 1825, the Symphony in C major ‘La Grande’ was never performed in Schubert’s lifetime, and never came out in print either. It is purely accidental that it has come down to us at all. Ten years after Schubert’s death Robert Schumann acquired the autograph manuscript from Schubert’s brother and passed it on to Felix Mendelssohn who, at the helm of the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig, conducted the full first performance. Shortly afterwards Schumann wrote an enthusiastic report in Zeue Zeitschrift für Musik, a journal founded by himself, and was highly appreciative of what, even in as late as 1840, he believed to be stunningly novel features. The opening movement of the symphony, for example, was written in the ‘most regular’ sonata form possible; however, the individual formal sections are not clearly marked by breaks, but rather, one fades into the next. Even the Andante introduction begins in an unorthodox way, with a horn solo, the sound of nature in German Romantic music. Schumann believed that for a man who rarely heard his own instrumental music performed, the orchestration attested to incredible talent. He also noted that in his symphony Schubert employed the instruments like human voices and the various groups of instruments like a choir. A case in point is the middle section in the scherzo in the third movement, whose heart-warming melodies are ‘sung’ by a choir of winds, with string accompaniment. It is perhaps also no accident that the middle of the finale – with its elementary rhythms and rooted in the Beethovenian symphony-finale – features an excerpt from the Joy of Ode.