An unfinished symphony is a fragment of a symphony, by a particular composer, that musicians and academics consider incomplete or unfinished for various reasons. The archetypal unfinished symphony is Franz Schubert's Symphony No. 8 (sometimes called Schubert's Unfinished Symphony), written in 1822, six years before his death. It features two fully orchestrated movements. While it seems clear from sketches that Schubert set out to create a traditional four-movement symphony, this has been the subject of endless debate. Schubert wrote the symphony for the Graz Musical Society, and gave the manuscript to his friend Anselm Hüttenbrenner, in his capacity as its representative. However, Hüttenbrenner did not show the score to the society at that time, nor did he reveal the existence of the manuscript after Schubert died in 1828, but kept it a secret for another 37 years. In 1865, when he was 76 (three years before his death), Hüttenbrenner finally showed it to the conductor Johann von Herbeck, who conducted the extant two movements on 17 December 1865 in Vienna, adding the last movement of Schubert's third symphony as the finale. Music historians and scholars then toiled to "prove" the composition was complete in its two-movement form, and indeed, in that form it became one of the most popular pieces in the late 19th century classical music repertoire, and remains one of Schubert's most popular compositions.
Georges Bizet's Roma Symphony, sometimes described as "unfinished", but this is misleading. After eleven years of tinkering (1860–1871), with a partial performance in 1869, Bizet could still not produce a version that truly satisfied him. However, the latest version of the symphony was published posthumously in 1880, and is a complete work in the sense that all the movements are fully scored.
Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 9, which only contains three complete movements and a draft of the fourth movement. There have been a number of completions made of the fourth movement, but most conductors opt to perform and record only the first three.
Edward Elgar's Symphony No. 3 in C minor, op. 88 (1932–34), which Elgar left with a mass of sketches for the four movements of this potentially major work, with a few passages fully scored. A highly creative performing version was achieved in 1997 by Anthony Payne.
Franz Schubert's Symphony No. 10, a symphonic sketch from 1828 reconstructed as a three-movement work often referred to as his Tenth or Last symphony. (Scholars believe it is the work meant by a reference to the 'Last Symphony' (Letzte Symphonie) in a contemporary obituary of Schubert.)
Wilhelm Stenhammar's Symphony No. 3, which contains a draft of a first movement (including a seven-page fragment in full score) and sketches of three other movements. The full-score fragment of the first movement was edited with a concert ending by Tommy B. Andersson and first performed in 1991.
Eduard Tubin's Symphony No. 11, which contains a partially orchestrated first movement and the opening ten bars of a second movement. The orchestration of the first movement was completed by Kaljo Raid in 1987 and this movement has been performed and recorded several times.
Richard Arnell's Symphony No. 7 "Mandela", op. 201. Arnell had left sketches for a Seventh Symphony, dedicated to Nelson Mandela, at the time of his death, in 2009, and it has since been realised and completed by Martin Yates. It was recorded in the summer of 2010 by Yates and the RSNO and was issued by Dutton Epoch.
Alfred Schnittke's Symphony No. 9 was written two years before his death in 1998. The reconstruction of the manuscript of a barely readable score was made by a younger generation composer – Alexander Raskatov – hired by Irina Schnittke, the composer's widow. Raskatov not only reconstructed Schnittke's Ninth but also wrote his own composition: Nunc dimittis – In memoriam Alfred Schnittke. The premiere recording of both pieces was conducted by Dennis Russell Davies.