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Schubert's "Great" Symphony

Schubert's "Great" Symphony

The Evanston Symphony Orchestra will perform pieces by some of Vienna’s most celebrated composers at its season-opening concert this month. Among them is Schubert’s majestic Symphony No. 9, “The Great,” a work that lives up to its name.

While it was originally called the Great C major to differentiate it from Schubert’s Symphony No. 6, the Little C major, the work now has earned its title because of its undisputed majesty and length. Among its lyrical themes and rhythms, the piece contains an allusion to the "Ode to Joy" from another classical masterpiece, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

Besides possibly being Schubert’s finest work, it has the distinction of being the last symphony Schubert completed before his death in 1828. Unfortunately, he did not live long enough to hear it. In 1838, Schumann was shown a copy. He took it to Leipzig, Germany, where Mendelssohn performed the entire work publicly on March 21, 1839. Unfortunately, one hallmark of the symphony is its technical difficulty. Taking the symphony to Paris and London, Mendelssohn found orchestras completely unwilling to play it.

Franz Schubert