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FastNotes

  • The Second Symphony begins with a Largo introduction. The ensuing Allegro vivace bursts forth with a sprinting theme that borrows heavily from Beethoven’s overture to The Creatures of Prometheus.
  • The Andante second movement features a theme and variations. The theme, introduced by the strings alone, is characteristic of Schubert the songwriter: tuneful and balanced.

  • The Menuetto begins with a brusque Allegro vivace; the Trio section lightens up by paring down to solo oboe and sparse string accompaniment; other instruments add embellishments to the delicate texture before the minuet comes tromping back.

  • The Presto vivace provides a suitable closure to the symphony as a whole, with galloping melodies occasionally overcome by sudden, intense drama.


Composed: 1814-1815
Length: c. 30 minutes
Orchestration: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, and strings
First Los Angeles Philharmonic performance: November 20, 1928, Georg Schnéevoight conducting

Schubert composed his Second Symphony between December 1814 and March 1815, as he started his teaching at his father’s school. Yet the symphony still has ties to the seminary that had trained him: It is dedicated to the headmaster, Innocenz Lang, and the seminary orchestra played the premiere performance.

Like his First Symphony, it begins with a slow introduction: The Largo alternates between forceful chords from the winds, brass, and timpani, and winding, chromatic lines from the strings. The ensuing Allegro vivace bursts forth with a sprinting theme that borrows heavily from Beethoven’s overture to The Creatures of Prometheus. Schubert’s theme, however, playfully places an accent on the second beat of the measure, giving a slight displacement that jolts the melody forward. The second theme maintains the momentum through a constantly oscillating accompaniment that buzzes beneath the soaring melody. The development isolates a three-note gesture and layers it on top of itself, all while the eighth notes continue their frantic pace. The texture grows more intricate, then clears up just before the recapitulation revisits the earlier thematic material.

The Andante second movement features a theme and variations. The theme, introduced by the strings alone, is characteristic of Schubert the songwriter: tuneful and balanced. The five ensuing variations demonstrate his ability to recast the simple melody in many forms, from a pastoral scene with horn calls to a tempestuous minore.

The Menuetto begins with a brusque Allegro vivace, far removed from the amicable minuet of his previous symphony. The Trio section lightens up by paring down to solo oboe and sparse string accompaniment; other instruments add embellishments to the delicate texture before the minuet comes tromping back. The Presto vivace provides a suitable closure to the symphony as a whole, with galloping melodies occasionally overcome by sudden, intense drama.

- Linda Shaver-Gleason