It is a sobering thought that the first public performance of any symphony by Schubert took place after his death, at a memorial concert in December 1828.
The work in question was the Symphony No.6 in C major, composed ten years earlier but previously only played through once, by an amateur orchestra.
What was heard at the 1828 concert was thus music by a relatively untroubled 20-year-old composer paying tribute to one of his heroes at the time: Rossini. ‘He is undeniably an exceptional genius’, Schubert had said of Rossini in 1819, and both the cavatina style of the second movement and the effervescent spontaneity of the finale certainly call to mind the Italian composer’s overtures.
But in the third movement Scherzo another, even more important influence is heard, for instance in the numerous contrasts that abruptly punctuate the music in a clearly Beethovenian manner.
Obviously proud of the work, Schubert called it his ‘Great Symphony in C major’, unsuspecting of the fact that the same designation would later be applied to his final work in the genre, Symphony No.9 in C major, D944.
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