Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Schubert: Symphony #3

I have a confession to make. Today's CD is not only further proof of my need to start this blog, but it is perhaps the most embarrassing example of how mindless and uncontemplative my life had become over the past several years.

This CD sat on my shelf with more than a hundred other CDs for years, unlistened to, unnoticed, and collecting dust. It was just like all the rest of my CDs, except, uh, in one key respect: It was still in its cellophane wrapper.

I had been so out of touch with myself that I bought CDs that I forgot I bought. I must have wanted to listen to this CD at some point, but apparently in the time between buying the CD and putting it on the shelf, I got distracted. For ten years.

That is a prime, and admittedly foolish-sounding, example of why I'm taking a break from my career, and why I started this blog. I guess I didn't want to wake up in another ten years and hear myself making excuses for myself like "I work too hard and make too much money to pay any attention to all the stuff I buy."
Carlos Kleiber and the Wiener Philharmoniker
Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Schubert: Symphony #3, Symphony #8
Deutsche Grammophon, 1979
Enough about me: A few words about Schubert before we begin the listener notes. You'll find Schubert, especially his early works like his Third Symphony, written just months after his 18th birthday, sounds very much like Mozart or Haydn. Despite living in the Romantic era, Schubert sounds much more like a Classical-era composer:

[Schubert] stands between the worlds of classical and romantic music. He is, however, chiefly to be considered as the last of the classical composers.
--Maurice J.E. Brown, in his biography of Franz Schubert

And he was yet another brilliant composer who died too young. Schubert contracted syphilis in 1823 at age 26 and died just five years later of complications from the disease (the CD liner notes accompanying this CD bluntly describe him as a "stricken philanderer"). One wonders what music he would have written had he lived longer. Would he have evolved as Beethoven did and taken his music into and beyond the Romantic era?

Today's recording is excellent, and I highly recommend it. You can buy the exact recording featured in this post from Amazon by clicking on the text link above, or by clicking on the graphic link at the bottom of this post.

And for those of you interested in an excellent recording of all nine (or perhaps more accurately put, eight and a half) of Schubert's symphonies, let me suggest one of the best and most affordable collections out there: Schubert: Complete Symphonies, by Richardo Muti and the Vienna Philharmonic. Again, just click the link to be taken to the product page at

We'll return to Schubert and his "Unfinished" Symphony in our next post.

Listener notes for Schubert's Third Symphony:
1) There's an opening introduction to the first movement, a la Haydn. It's not quite as catchy as a typical Haydn hook, but it's an obvious example of how "Classical" this symphony sounds.

2) I particularly like the two-note call and response parts from the woodwinds early in the first movement.

3) After you've listened to the second and third movements, both captivating and both as cute as buttons, convince me that you could tell this apart from any of the middle movements of Haydn's symphonies!

4) Only one minor criticism of an otherwise flawless work: the brass parts, and most notably the trumpet parts, are entirely oom-pah parts. Thus this is the sort of piece I'd like to listen to, not the kind of piece I'd like to perform.


MyMusic said...

Did you seriously have the CD for 10 years before you opened it? Mind you I'm just as bad. I just bought a CD of Smetana's Ma Vlast, then a couple of days later discovered I had the same recording already...

Daniel said...

Yep, I seriously had it for 10 years. Pretty sad, huh?

Thanks for reading and for commenting!


Tom said...

Fantastic that you've reviewed this symphony, which I've discovered recently too. For me, the best moment is the start of the allegto section of the first movement. I've always thought the clarinet at that point sounds like a cockerel, rousing everyone from their sleep, while the rest of the orchestra stir and stretch their legs. Schubert seems to love rapid, upward scales - and the first fortissimo moment with the full orchestra is a great example of this.

Daniel said...

Tom, thanks for reading and thanks for your comment. I was really pleased and happily surprised with this symphony too.