Schubert's symphonies

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Franz Schubert completed seven symphonies; nonetheless, one of his incomplete symphonies, the Unfinished Symphony is among his most popular works.

Early symphonies[edit]

By 1818, Schubert had completed 6 symphonies:[1]

Late symphonies[edit]

Apart from the Great C major (D. 944), all of Schubert's late symphony projects remained unfinished.[2]

Numbering issues[edit]

Confusion arose quite early over the numbering of Schubert's symphonies, in particular the Great C major Symphony. George Grove, who rediscovered many of Schubert's symphonies, assigned the following numbering after his 1867 visit to Vienna:

  • No. 7: E major, D 729 (completely sketched but not entirely scored by Schubert, with multiple historic and modern completions)
  • No. 8: B minor, D 759 Unfinished
  • No. 9: C major, D 944 Great C major

Breitkopf & Härtel, when preparing the 1897 complete works publication, originally planned to publish only complete works (which would have given the Great C major No. 7), with "fragments", including the Unfinished and the D 729 sketch, receiving no number at all. When Johannes Brahms became general editor of that project, he assigned the following numbers:[3]

  • no number: E major, D 729
  • No. 7: C major, D 944 Great C major
  • No. 8: B minor, D 759 Unfinished

Some of the disagreement continued into the 20th century. George Grove in his 1908 Dictionary of Music and Musicians, assigned the Great C major as No. 10, and the Unfinished as No. 9. (It is unclear from his article which symphonies, fragmentary or otherwise, are Nos. 7 and 8.)[4] The 1978 revision to the Deutsch catalogue leaves the order as follows:

  • no number: E major, D 729
  • No. 7: B minor, D 759 Unfinished
  • No. 8: C major, D 944 Great C major[5]

As a consequence, generally available scores for the later symphonies may be published using conflicting numbers.[6]

Grove and Sullivan also suggested that there may have been a "lost" symphony. Immediately before Schubert's death, his friend Eduard von Bauernfeld recorded the existence of an additional symphony, dated 1828 (although this does not necessarily indicate the year of composition) named the "Letzte" or "Last" symphony. Brian Newbould believes that the "Last" symphony refers to a sketch in D major (D 936A), identified by Ernst Hilmar in 1977, and which was realised by Newbould as the Tenth Symphony.[7] The fragment was bound with other symphony fragments (D 615 and D 708A).[7]

In conclusion, the resulting and most current order followed by the English-speaking world is:


  1. ^ Newbould 1999, Chapter 6: "The Early Symphonies", pp. 73–89
  2. ^ Newbould 1999, Chapter 22: "The Late Symphonies", pp. 373–388
  3. ^ Lindmayr, p. 56
  4. ^ Grove (1908), pp. 320–328
  5. ^ 1978 Deutsch Catalogue
  6. '^ See references below for citations containing different numbers for the Unfinished Symphony.
  7. ^ a b Newbould (1999), p. 385


  • Deutsch, Otto Erich; et al. (1978). Franz Schubert, thematisches Verzeichnis seiner Werke in chronologischer Folge. Bärenreiter. ISBN 978-3-7618-0571-8.
  • Grove, George; Fuller-Maitland, John Alexander (1908). Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, volume 4. Macmillan. OCLC 407077.
  • Lindmayr-Brandl, Andrea (2003). Franz Schubert: Das fragmentarische Werk (in German). Franz Steiner Verlag. ISBN 978-3-515-08250-1.
  • Newbould, Brian (1999). Schubert: The Music and the Man. University of California Press. ISBN 9780520219571.

Numbering of symphonies[edit]

The following citations illustrate the confusion around the numbering of Schubert's late symphonies. The B minor Unfinished Symphony is variously published as No. 7 and No. 8, in both German and English. All of these editions appeared to be in print (or at least somewhat readily available) in 2008.

  • Schubert, Franz (1996). Symphony, No 7, D 759, B minor, "Unfinished" (in German). Bärenreiter. OCLC 39794412. German-language publication of the Unfinished Symphony score as No. 7.
  • Schubert, Franz (2008). Symphony No. 7 in B minor D 759 Unfinished Symphony. Eulenburg Audio+Score Series. Eulenburg. ISBN 978-3-7957-6529-3. English-language publication of the Unfinished Symphony score as No. 7.
  • Schubert, Franz; Reichenberger, Teresa (1986). Symphony No. 8 in B minor, D. 759 Unfinished (Paperback). ISBN 978-3-7957-6278-0. English-language publication of the Unfinished Symphony score as No. 8.