Symphony No. 4 (Schubert)

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The Symphony No. 4 in C minor, D 417, is a symphony by Franz Schubert completed in April 1816[1] when Schubert was 19 years old, a year after his Third Symphony However, it was not premiered until November 19, 1849, in Leipzig, more than two decades after Schubert's death.[2] The symphony was called the Tragic (German: Tragische) by its composer.


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 two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets in B♭, two bassoons, four horns in A♭, C and E♭, two trumpets in C and E♭, timpani, and strings. There are four movements, and a performance lasts around 30 minutes.

  1. Adagio moltoAllegro vivace (C minorC major) (286 bars)
  2. Andante (A♭ major) (271 bars)
  3. Menuetto Allegro vivace (54 bars) – Trio (E♭ major) (32 bars)
  4. Allegro (C minor – C major) (486 bars)

\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][3] 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 future 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. ^ Signale für die musikalische Welt, 1849, p. 396: "Monday, November 19, 1849... Symphony in C minor by Franz Schubert. For the first time... a previously unknown symphony ..." (translated)
  3. ^ 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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