Franz Schubert

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

    Description by Roger Dettmer

    This work wasn't performed in its entirety until March 21, 1839, at Leipzig, with Mendelssohn conducting. After composing six complete symphonies between 1813 and 1818 in the manner of Haydn and Mozart, Schubert completed only one more in the remaining decade of his brief life. This was The Great C major, written during 1825-1826 (rather than 1828 as was supposed until quite recently), and thus is the allegedly lost "Gastein" Symphony. Although he dated a copy of the score "March 1828," it really is No. 9, despite an army of scholars that variously tagged it No. 7, 8, and even 10.

    By 1818 the Viennese had typecast Schubert as a vocal composer, and the label stuck. His keyboard, chamber, and orchestral works were hardly known despite their excellences. Older brother Ferdinand hoarded the manuscript of No. 9, which Robert Schumann finally saw in 1838, and took to Leipzig. Orchestras in Vienna and Paris flatly refused to play it, however, and London musicians laughed derisively during rehearsals in 1844, when Mendelssohn tried without success to perform it there as he had in Leipzig ("with cuts" -- big ones). Strings in particular hated playing its endlessly repetitive patterns: their pre-Wagner and pre-Bruckner bow arms were not ready for Schubert's "heavenly lengths." When all repeats are observed, the Ninth lasts over an hour, with almost no let-up in momentum. Three of Schubert's four movements employ sonata form -- the first, the finale, and the song sections in an ABA scherzo. Only the slow movement is written in expanded song form (ABABA).

    A soft but accented horn theme in the slow introduction foreshadows others to come in the exposition; it returns triumphantly in a long coda. The main body of the movement, marked "not too fast," is rhythmically so powerful and relentless that an unmodified Allegro tempo would have risked destroying it (and us).

    Dotted rhythms characterize the A minor Andante, whose con moto qualification keeps it from dragging or sounding sentimentally sorrowful. Schubert's subsequent transition to A major is breathtaking, and his quiet writing for horns magical. As the movement began, it ends in A minor.

    Beethoven-like, the Song parts of the Allegro vivace scherzo feature a miniature exposition-development-reprise (maybe Schubert knew the elder master's Ninth after all), full of dance melodies. C major yields to A major in the trio, with its broader tune for winds, before the song-sonata repeats.

    Allegro vivace, again in C, this finale begins with a churning subject in triplet rhythm that stubbornly fights resolution (it is the grandest and most famous compositional trap in all music). Schubert finally must stop before he can introduce a new theme on clarinets and horns. Development and recapitulation follow on a titanic scale, capped by a coda in kind -- a movement, altogether, just short of 1,200 measures!

    Parts/Movements

    1. Andante - Allegro ma non troppo
    2. Andante con moto
    3. Scherzo. Allegro vivace - Trio
    4. Allegro vivace

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Deutsche Grammophon
    2018 Farao Classics S 108097
    2018 SWR Music SWR 19506CD
    2018 Decca / Deutsche Grammophon 4798418
    2018 BR Klassik BRK 900169
    2018 Münchner Philharmoniker 793052112646
    2017 RCA Red Seal 88985376042
    2017 Berliner Philharmoniker BPHR 150063
    2017 MDG MDG 9012053
    2017 Decca / Eloquence 4825379
    2016 RCA Red Seal 88875169792
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4796314
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 002894795516
    2016 Weitblick SSS 01852
    2016 Praga / Praga Digitals DSD 350085
    2016 Decca / Philips 4788977
    2016 Signum Classics SIGCD 461
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4795545
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4795553
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4796018
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon 4795448
    2015 IDIS 6705
    2015 Wiener Symphoniker WS 009
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon 002317102
    2015 Tudor Records TUD 1660
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon
    2014 Decca / Eloquence
    2014 Sony Classical 88843014642
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon
    2014 Warner Classics 2564633618
    2014 Urania WS 121164
    2014 RCA Red Seal 88843006072
    2014 Haenssler / Hänssler Classic 93313
    2013 Decca 4785437
    2013 Sinfonieorchester Basel SOB 03
    2013 Deutsche Grammophon
    2013 Deutsche Grammophon B001909402
    2013 Broken Audio BRAU 1016
    2013 Brilliant / Brilliant Classics 94693
    2013 Bella Musica BM 312451
    2013 Bella Musica
    2013 BR Klassik 900712
    2013 Elatus 46750
    2013 Deutsche Grammophon / Universal
    2013 Deutsche Grammophon 4791046
    2012 Guild Historical GHCD 238485
    2012 Opus KURA OPK 2099
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099963565
    2012 Naxos 8501057
    2012 Deutsche Grammophon 002894770055
    2012 EMI Classics
    2012 Hänssler Classic CD 94611
    2012 Naïve V 5299
    2012 Profil / Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 12062
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099967830
    2012 Naxos 8572939
    2012 Urania 181
    2012 Budapest Music Center BMH 194
    2012 Andromeda ANDRCD 9109
    2011 RCO Live RCO 11004
    2011 Audite 95640
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon
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    2011 Brilliant Classics 94218
    2011 Tudor Records 1610
    2011 MDG MDG9011636-6
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    2011 Testament 1463
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    2011 Decca
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    2011 Red Bus Classical RCLAS 043
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    2011 Cascavelle VEL 3155
    2011 Newton Classics 8802033
    2011 SOMM Beecham 29
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
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    2010 Documents / Documents Classics 2231557
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    2010 Berlin Classics 0300037
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    2010 Decca 436 598-2DH
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    2010 Tahra / TAHRA TAH 698700
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    2009 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler 9068
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    2008 Medici Arts 27-2
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    2008 IDIS 6538
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    2008 Warner Classics
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    2008 Corona Classic Collection 0002692CCC
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    2008 Signum Classics / Signum UK 133
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    2007 Berlin 8403
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    1995 Lydian 18107
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    1995 Philips 434 354-2MM
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    1995 Deutsche Grammophon 447439
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    1995 Decca 444 546-2DF2
    1994 Denon Records 7441
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    1994 Artists Live Recordin 065
    1994 Infinity Digital 66574
    1994 EMI Music Distribution 68121
    1993 Deutsche Grammophon 437689
    1993 EMI Music Distribution 64628
    1993 Albany Music Distribution 089
    1993 Philips 438006
    1992 Sony Music Distribution 48132
    1992 Koch 37072
    1992 Sony Music Distribution 48268
    1992 Nimbus 5270
    1991 RCA 60313
    1991 RCA 60290
    1991 Decca 4307732
    1990 Orfeo D'Or 234901
    1990 CBS Records 42316
    1989 Deutsche Grammophon 423656
    1988 Deutsche Grammophon / Universal Music
    1988 Deutsche Grammophon 423651
    1985 Telarc Distribution 80110
    1980 Tahra 117
    1980 Tahra 1017
    1980 Tahra 1040
    Deutsche Grammophon 435321
    Deutsche Grammophon 437000
    RCA 60291
    RCA 60328
    Beulah 12
    Grammofono 2000 78548
    Decca 000298102
    RCA 60978
    ASV 6029
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    EMI Music Distribution 65353
    History 2030921
    Golden Melodram 40064
    Smithsonian Collection of Reco 24737
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    Enterprise 929
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    EMI Music Distribution 64085
    History 205255
    Deutsche Grammophon 471289
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    EMI Music Distribution 49949
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    Berlin Classics 0010832
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