Symphony No. 5 (Schubert)

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Franz Schubert's Symphony No. 5 in B flat major, D. 485, was written mainly in September 1816 and completed on October 3, 1816.[1] It was finished six months after the completion of his previous symphony.

Scored for one flute, two oboes, and two bassoons, along with two horns in B and E and strings. Of all of Schubert's symphonies, it is scored for the smallest orchestra. It is the only one of his symphonies which does not include clarinets, trumpets or timpani as part of the instrumentation.

In character, the writing is often said to resemble Mozart; Schubert was infatuated with the composer at the time he composed it, writing in his diary on June 13 of the year of composition, "O Mozart! immortal Mozart! what countless impressions of a brighter, better life hast thou stamped upon our souls!"[2] This is reflected particularly in the lighter instrumentation, as noted above. Indeed, the instrumentation matches that of the first version (without clarinets) of Mozart's 40th symphony.[3]

Musical analysis[edit]

There are four movements:

  1. Allegro in B, in cut (2/2) time.
  2. Andante con moto in E, in 6/8 time.
  3. Menuetto. Allegro molto in G minor, in 3/4 time, with a Trio in G major.
  4. Allegro vivace in B, in 2/4 time.

First movement[edit]

This is the first Schubert symphony that does not begin with a slow introduction. What starts the movement is a four-bar structural upbeat similar to the one that begins the finale of his 4th symphony before the main theme starts on bar 5.[3] The main is a simple rising arpeggio with a dotted rhythm that dominates all of the themes of the exposition. The first movement is a slightly unusual sonata form since the recapitulation begins, as in the first movement of Mozart’s sonata facile (and Schubert's 'Trout' Quintet), in the subdominant, not in the main key of the piece as is more usual.

Second movement[edit]

The slow movement opens with a theme in two repeated stanzas. Without pause there is a modulation into C that is very characteristic of Schubert, even at age 19. The return to the main theme is straight, passing through G minor on the way; there is a repetition of the distant modulation afterwards, though to G this time and with a more immediate return.

Third movement[edit]

The menuetto has the chromaticism though not the polyphony of the menuetto of Mozart’s 40th symphony. The progression used mid-way through the movement to modulate is borrowed almost directly from the 40th — using the same approach (a gradual layering of instruments) to a dominant 7th chord. (It might be interesting to compare the Schubert to other minor‐mode symphonic minuets of the time, however.) The trio is quiet throughout, and only gradually accumulates instruments, beginning with only bassoon and strings, and with a subtle suggestion of a pastoral mood over held lower string notes.

Fourth movement[edit]

The finale is the shortest of the four movements.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Brown, A. Peter, The Symphonic Repertoire (Volume 2). Indiana University Press (ISBN 025333487X), pp. 572 (2002).
  2. ^ Edmonstoune Duncan, Schubert p. 95, London: J. M. Dent & Co. 1905.
  3. ^ a b Brown, A. Peter, The Symphonic Repertoire (Volume 2). Indiana University Press (ISBN 025333487X), pp. 603-609 (2002).