Many composers leave unfinished works, but none is more shrouded in mystery than Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 8, to be performed at the Folsom Symphony’s season opener Oct. 20.
Most unfinished symphonies are cut short when their composers die, but that isn’t the case with Schubert. He wrote a ninth symphony after leaving his eighth incomplete.
Or did he? Only two movements exist for this symphony, and music scholars have argued for nearly two centuries over whether they were intended to be part of a traditional four-part symphony; whether, in fact, Schubert meant the symphony to be complete with two movements; or even whether another movement or two were finished but lost, perhaps still waiting to be found.
It is known that Schubert, born in Vienna in 1797 and considered a master of the “lieder,” or musical songs, wrote the symphony for the Austrian Graz Musical Society in 1822. He gave the manuscript — it isn’t known how many parts — to a society representative, who, curiously, kept it secret until 1865, nearly four decades after the composer’s death in 1828.
When it was first performed, on Dec. 17, 1865, the last movement of Schubert’s third symphony was added as a finale. The piece was proclaimed a “brilliant masterpiece,” with one critic hailing it, in the style of the time, as “a sweet stream of melodies, in spite of its vigour and geniality so crystal-clear that you can see every pebble on the bottom.”
The symphony is now most often presented with just the two original movements, which is how the Folsom Symphony will perform it. Folsom Music Director and Conductor Michael Neumann described the first movement as “quiet and melancholy with a few minutes of agitation” and the second as “gentle, serene, fragile.”
Patrons may be familiar with the music from films and TV shows, including “Minority Report” and “The Smurfs.”
Schubert’s work is one of four the symphony will perform for its A Heart’s Jewel and Triumph concert Oct. 20. The evening also includes Antonin Dvorak’s “Carnival Overture,” Concerto in E Minor by Felix Mendelssohn (with violin solo by guest performer Rebecca Corruccini) and Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture.”
“Carnival Overture” is the second part of the Czech composer’s trilogy “Nature, Life and Love,” first performed in Prague in 1892. Except for a haunting melody by English horn and violin, the piece is “vibrant, fast and furious, enthralling,” Neumann said.
In his own program notes, Dvorak wrote: “On every side is heard the clangor of instruments, mingled with shouts of joy and the unrestrained hilarity of people giving vent to their feelings in the songs and dance tunes.”
Mendelssohn’s concerto, first performed in 1845, is noted for its novel elements, including immediate entrance of the violin. It is regarded as one of the greatest violin concertos ever written. Guest soloist Corruccini is a member of the Minnesota Orchestra and concertmaster for the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra.
Folsom Symphony violinist and board member Anson Wong recalls studying the Mendelssohn work as a student. “It quickly became one of my favorite concertos,” he said. “I look forward to Ms. Corruccini’s performance. Her reputation as a fine violinist precedes her and we are fortunate to have her perform with us.”
Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” with its volley of cannon shots in the score, is frequently performed on our Fourth of July. However, the piece was written not to recognize this country’s war against Britain 200 years ago but to commemorate French Emperor Napoleon’s retreat from Russia that same year. It contains references to both the French and Russian national anthems.
The “bombastic” work, said Neumann, will conclude the evening with “total excitement.”
A Heart’s Jewel and Triumph will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20, at Three Stages at Folsom Lake College.
Tickets can be purchased at www.folsomsymphony.com or by calling (916) 608-6888. For a season brochure visit the website and click on the “Concerts” tab. For information about the Folsom Symphony call (916) 357-6718.