Symphony No. 4 (Schubert)

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Franz Schubert's Symphony No. 4 in C minor, D. 417, called by its composer the Tragic (German: Tragische), was completed in April 1816,[1] a year after his Third Symphony, when he was 19 years old. It was not premiered publicly, however, until November 19, 1849, in Leipzig, more than two decades after Schubert's death.[citation needed]


Schubert added the title Tragic to his autograph manuscript some time after the work was completed.[1] It is not known why. It can be noted, however, that the symphony is one of only two he wrote (the Unfinished Symphony is the other) in a minor key. The scoring is for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets in B, 2 bassoons, 4 horns in A, C and E, 2 trumpets in C and E, timpani and strings. There are four movements, and a performance lasts around 30 minutes.

  1. Adagio molto – Allegro vivace (in C minor, ending in C major)
  2. Andante (in A major)
  3. Menuetto. Allegro vivace – Trio (in E major)
  4. Allegro (in C minor, ending in C major)

\relative c' {
  \tempo "Adagio molto"
  \key c \minor
  \time 3/4
  c2.\ff->\fermata | r4 c\p as'~ | as8 (fis g4) f'!~-> | f8 [(d es)]

The slow introduction is modeled after Haydn's The Representation of Chaos overture to The Creation oratorio.[1][2] The opening theme of the Allegro of the first movement derives from the opening theme of Ludwig van Beethoven's String Quartet, Op. 18 No. 4 in the same key.[1]

The slow movement is in ABABA form which would be a favorite form for most of Schubert's remaining symphonic slow movements.[1] The themes in the B section are not new. They are developed from the Allegro theme of the first movement and the themes of the A section. The second appearance of B, the third return of A and the beginning of the coda have a sixteenth-note ostinato accompaniment added to help bring cohesiveness to the sections. This was a device that Beethoven had previously used in the slow movements of his Op. 18 No. 1 quartet and his Pathetique sonata.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Brown, A. Peter, The Symphonic Repertoire (Volume 2). Indiana University Press (ISBN 025333487X), pp. 598-603 (2002).
  2. ^ Newbould, Brian, Schubert and the Symphony: A New Perspective, p. 86–109, Toccata Press (1992) ISBN 978-0-907689-27-0

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