Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Schubert - Symphony No. 2 In B-flat

Franz Schubert's gifts showed themselves early, and by the time he was a teenager he was writing symphonies for full orchestra. His first symphony was written in 1813 when he was sixteen years old, and as soon as it was completed he began work on his second symphony which he began late in 1814 and finished in the spring of 1815.  During this time Schubert was a schoolmaster, having been trained to follow in his  father's profession. He soon grew tired of the monotony of teaching and quit his schoolmaster's duties in 1818 to devote himself to music.

Schubert's education included time in the Imperial and Royal Seminary in Vienna as a chorister. He also played in the school orchestra, which played music every evening. Schubert was exposed to a great deal of music during his time at the Seminary in Vienna, especially the music of Mozart, which remained a favorite of his.

The public performance of the Second Symphony wasn't given until 1877, many years after Schubert's death, but Schubert dedicated the symphony to his music master at the Seminary and the symphony could have had it's first performance by the school orchestra.

The symphony is in 4 movements:

I. Largo - Allegro vivace - Schubert begins with an introduction consisting of a robust fanfare that leads into a slow, lyrical section. This soon give way to the beginning of the first movement proper, written in sonata form. The first theme chatters away in the tonic key of B-flat which is followed by a second theme that is not in the expected dominant key of F major, but is in E-flat major.  After a working out of themes in the development, the recapitulation appears. Schubert keeps the music lyrically moving, and the movement ends in the tonic key.

II . Andante - The second movement is a set of five variations on an original theme. The orchestration is varied as well as the theme itself as Schubert makes music that is reminiscent of Mozart and Haydn.

III. Menuetto - Music in the style of Haydn's peasant-stomp minuets.

IV. - Presto - Rapid music in rondo form. Already at age seventeen, Schubert shows a remarkable deftness for harmonic surprises that go against convention, but still make musical sense.

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