Skip to page content

FastNotes

  • Schubert completed his Symphony No.1 on October 28, 1813, when he was sixteen years old.
  • The first movement begins with a solemn Adagio, which leads to the nimble Allegro vivace and first theme. A second theme forms the basis of the development section. After a recapitulation of the earlier themes, the movement ends as emphatically as it began.

  • The Andante rolls out a sunny melody in the first violins, but turns plaintive. The opening melody returns, now dipping into minor.

  • The Menuetto begins with a boisterous Allegro. The contrasting Trio passage evokes the Ländler, a traditional Austrian folk dance, before returning to a literal repeat of the minuet section.

  • The Allegro vivace finale begins with just the two violin sections: the firsts toss off the melody as the seconds establish the eighth notes that run nearly nonstop throughout the movement. Even as the rest of the orchestra joins the fray and the texture grows more complex, indefatigable energy drives the finale to its conclusion.


Composed: 1813
Length: c. 30 minutes
Orchestration: flute, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, and strings
First Los Angeles Philharmonic performance

This program features symphonies from a prolific songwriter and songs from a prominent symphonist, two figures on opposite ends of the Romantic era. These works all come from early in their composers’ careers, as they were developing their craft and had yet to inhabit the roles that music history would eventually assign them. Nevertheless, for both composers, their work in other genres informed their personal styles and shaped their legacies. In the case of Franz Schubert, composer of over 600 art songs, appreciation for his skills as a symphonist came posthumously; his “Great” C-major symphony was discovered by Robert Schumann a decade after his death. That symphony manifests Schubert’s efforts to secure a reputation as a “serious” composer in the mold of Beethoven. Yet Schubert had been writing symphonies since he was a teenager, with the earliest ones reflecting his studies of Mozart and Haydn.

Schubert completed his Symphony No.1 on October 28, 1813, when he was sixteen years old. He was nearing the end of his education at the Vienna Stadtkonvikt (Imperial Seminary) and preparing to become a schoolteacher like his father. During his five years at the seminary, he had trained with Antonio Salieri; Schubert would continue composition lessons with him privately even after he embarked on his new career.

The first movement begins with a solemn Adagio, full of established, attentiongrabbing techniques: bold statements in octaves, decisive arpeggios, and unexpected harmonic shifts. This leads to the nimble Allegro vivace, with a scampering theme that soon runs into chords that echo the dramatic harmonies of the introduction. After a transition from the woodwinds, the strings introduce a carefree melody. This second theme forms the basis of the development section, its arching melody veering though tragic woodwind solos and duets. The strings carry the work of development for a while, but the woodwinds ultimately steer the movement back to a surprising return of the introduction, this time set at the faster tempo. After a recapitulation of the earlier themes, Schubert ends the movement as emphatically as it began.

The Andante rolls out a sunny melody in the first violins, nudged forward by the other strings gently embellished by the woodwinds. The mood suddenly turns plaintive, with halting phrases. The opening melody returns, but it has been affected by the tragedy, dipping into minor.

The Menuetto follows a Haydnesque design, complete with moments of cleverness: It begins with a boisterous Allegro that becomes fixated on an eighth-note turning gesture. The contrasting Trio passage evokes the Ländler, a traditional Austrian folk dance, before returning to a literal repeat of the minuet section.

The Allegro vivace finale begins with just the two violin sections: the firsts toss off the melody as the seconds establish the eighth notes that run nearly nonstop throughout the movement. Even as the rest of the orchestra joins the fray and the texture grows more complex, indefatigable energy drives the finale to its conclusion.

- Linda Shaver-Gleason