Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Symphony No 5 in B flat major D 485
Andante con moto
Menuetto: Allegro Molto – Trio
For the most part, he output was a rather able mimicking of Haydn and Mozart with a healthy dash of Rossini and Bach thrown in for colour. Indeed none of his teachers would ever have predicted that Schubert would create anything that would distinguish him from the multitude of composers working in Vienna at the time.
For some reason, in the autumn of 1814, Schubert’s yet untapped talent burst on the scene and, over the next 15 months, resulted in one of the most intensely creative periods of any Western artist’s life.
During his 18th year, he composed 150 songs, which works out to more than one every three days. He wrote more than songs during this time and when all his output is added up, it works out to roughly 65 bars of music per day, much of it for full orchestra.
This is all well and good for a focused, full time composer but when his day job as a school teacher, private teaching, vigorous concert attendance and enthusiastic socializing are taken into consideration, this output is simply mind-boggling.
The pace of 1815 tapered a little the following year but only just. Schubert still found time for 110 songs, a mass setting, two-thirds of an opera, Symphonies 4 and 5, a string quartet and three sonatas for violin and piano.
Despite this massive amount of material and large circle of friends, neither Schubert or his supporters had enough money to hire the musicians necessary to perform most of it. As such, very little of his work was performed during his liftetime. His fifth symphony was an exception and received its first performance in August of 1817 as part of a house concert series put on by Otto Hatwig, a prominent violinist in whose amateur orchestra Schubert often played viola.
ABOUT THE SYMPHONY
Although considered by musicologists to still be a juvenile work of Schubert’s the fifth symphony represents a significant advancement in originality and style from the fourth even thought they were composed in the same year.
A heavy debt is still owed to Mozart, particularly in the third movement where he essentially quotes the corresponding movement of his colleague’s Symphony No. 40. Teenagers are not the most subtle of creatures, so the obviousness of this tribute is not entirely surprising.
It is easy to point to Schubert’s influences and conclude that his early symphonies are not really of any consequence. That, however, would be a mistake. Symphony No.5 is full of good humour, good tunes and in places, sparkles with the promise of things to come.