Unfinished Business: Schubert

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Unfinished Business: Schubert

1) Date needed

No not that kind of date! What kind of forum do you think this is?!

Date required: Schubert symphonies 5/8 Berlin Philharmonic Karl Bohm on Deutsche Grammophon Gesellchaft LP number139162. There is no date on the sleeve or on the inner label of the disc. The sleeve notes were penned by Karl Schumann. Anyone know?

2) Not normally one for comapring different versions of the same work, I have three versions of the Unfinished. Apart from the one above, I also have Cantelli with the Philharmonia, and Sinopoli with the Philharmonia on DG LP coupled with Mendelssohn's Italian.

Can anyone top the Bohm and the Cantelli (my favourite of the three) with any recent-ish recordings of the Unfinished?

3) Whilst looking at the scores section in Foyle's music department a year or two ago I was puzzled to see that Schubert's 8 in B Minor (Eulenberg) was now classed as Symphony no. 7, or else mine eyes deceive me. Does anyone know anything about this? Have Schubert's Symphonies been re-numbered by Eulenberg?

Cheers all




'Lobkowitz is a donkey'. (Ludwig Van Beethoven attr.)

RE: Unfinished Business: Schubert

Hi Mark. Here's your date!

February/March 1966

Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin.

One of my favourite recordings. I have it now as part of a very cheap complete CD set with Böhm and the Berlin Philharmonic.

Also very lovely is Krips with the Vienna Philharmonic, on Decca, coupled with an even greater performance of the 'Great' C major (with the LSO).

The old numberings of Schubert symphonies had the C major as the seventh, and the Unfinished as the eighth.  Long ago it was realised that the Unfinished preceded the 'Great' C major, but there was some suggestion of a lost seventh symphony. So the Unfinished became the 8th and the Great C major the 9th.  Now, it seems, scholars don't believe the 'lost' symphony ever existed, so the Unfinished has become the 7th, and the Great C major, the 8th.  Confused? Harnoncourt uses the 'new' numbering, I see.

All the best,


Chris A.Gnostic

RE: Unfinished Business: Schubert

Chris, was there ever a time when the "unfinished" predated the great C-major? That must have been very long ago...

IIRC, there have been 3 different numberings, the last one being the definitive one, accepted by almost all scholars and record companies nowadays:

- 7: lost "Gasteiner Symphony", 8: Unfinished, 9: Great C-major. I was believed that this 7th was either completely lost or existed in a piano duet version, the "Grand Duo". Joseph Joachim orchestrated it, but it isn't accepted as part of the canon of Schubert symphonies anymore.

- 7: Unfinished, 8: Great C-major. Exit Gasteiner. This was the usual numbering till relatively recently.

- 7: E-major symphony, 8: unfinished, 9: Great C-major, 10: D-major symphony. The E-major was drafted in 1821, the piece is complete but only partially orchestrated. There are several orchestrations, most notably by Weingartner and recently by Newbould. The 10th is also structurally complete in piano score, it's the last major piece Schubert worked on before his death. Brian Newbould orchestrated it. It's a stunning, experimental piece, with a highly contrapuntal scherzo-finale and one of the most beautiful slow movements of Schubert's symphonic oeuvre.

Also notable is that the "Unfinished" has been finished... in a version of Newbould (again) which completes the fragmentary scherzo and adds the Rosamunde finale since it's in the same key and from the same year as the symphony. It's a solution that doesn't sound very convincing to me; the difference in quality between the first 2 and the added last 2 movements is just too great.

RE: Unfinished Business: Schubert

Since the previous two posters responded to the questions of date(s) and numbering, I guess I may give you some suggestions for alternative recordings of the "Unfinished", including some more recent ones compared to the quite old "references" of yours, Mark:

- For Chamber size Orchestras: a) the Vegh/Camerata Academica des Mozarteums, on a double CD by Phoenix, including the Symphonies 4,6 and 9: a classic "well kept secret", and  b) the SACD by BIS, with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra under Thomas Dausgaard: a very detailed recording of a revealing new approach of the work.

- For full size orchestras: a) the mastereful Clarlos Kleiber with VPO, on DG, b) the classic Abbado with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, on DG again, c) the stormy Karajan with a top class BPO, on EMI and the more recent SACD, on Tudor, with Bamberger S.O. under Jonathan Nott: a brilliant recording of a superb reading of this monumental work.

There are plenty more, but I guess life is too short for an enormous almost never-ending exploration.


RE: Unfinished Business: Schubert

Chris, Vegh is "gold", but try Jonathan Nott as well. You'll be happily surprised what a brilliant detailed recording can do to an amazing, strong and meticulous performance.


RE: Unfinished Business: Schubert

Amazing! Thanks you three for this scholarly information.

Chris many thanks for the date. I knew someone on the forum would know about the dates and numberings!

50m you've got me interested in Schubert's 10th from your description. 

Also you two are a mine of information on the numberings!

And with so many good recommendations...I'll have to add to my three recordings, but it is a favourite work.




RE: Unfinished Business: Schubert

Yes - I have owned that box set since its first issue in 1985 (I think). It is currently available as a Newton Classics reissue and also (in Germany) as an Eloquence box set. Neither set includes the original essay by Brian Newbould explaining all his various completions, I understand.

The performances of the first 6 symphonies are excellent, as are those of No 7 and No 10. I am less convinced by the performances of the 'Unfinished' (with or without its completion) and the 'Great C Major'.

Even in Brian Newbould's completion and Marriner's good performance, I can't get carried away by No 7 - maybe the sketch, which I gather at points is just a single line of melody, is just not strong enough - but it is still well worth hearing. On the other hand I feel No 10 (especially the slow movement - but the second subject of the first movement is pure Schubert too) is a really wonderful work and, for me,

has been worth the purchase of the box on its own.

No 7 (in Weingartner's very different completion) is available on a single CPO disc (coupled with Weingartner's Violin Concerto) from Alun Francis and the SWR Radio Orchestra, Kaiserslautern. Newbould's completion of No 10 is also available on a single Hyperion disc in a very good performance by Mackerras and the SCO, though I slightly prefer the Marriner reading (though maybe it's just that that is the one i got to know it from).






Alan C

RE: Unfinished Business: Schubert

I have the Marriner box too, in its Philips edition, but I don't share the same excitement as Alan. I found the readings of Marriner a bit straightforward, flat and, in the great Symphonies, shallow. The Orchestra sounds something between a full size and Chamber, while the sound is not that detailed and bright, at least compared to more recent recordings. The "missing" No."7 and 10" are not great Schubert, if they can be considered as "true" Schubert. So, any "good" performance does not make much sense. However, for the "completists" and the curious, the Marriner box may work well...somehow.



RE: Unfinished Business: Schubert

What I find interesting and perhaps instructive is that some major conductors who have enthusiastically explored completions of Mahler and Bruckner (eg. Chailly, Rattle, Harnoncourt, who also has done a fair bit of Bach reconstruction in his time) have not touched the Schubert sketches. There's a big difference between works a composer consciously put aside incomplete and those left incomplete at their deaths. It's a long time ago that I heard the 7th 'completion', but I've read in several places that the sketch includes ideas later incorporated into the Great C major. Is this correct?

I'm inclined to agree with Parla about the Marriner set too, and, based on his performances of the symphonies that I know, I'm doubtful that his recordings 'work well' for the sketch-completions either, other than actually let us hear them, which is valuable on its own. 


Chris A.Gnostic

RE: Unfinished Business: Schubert

I've got the Marriner box as well. While I can enjoy Marriner's Mozart, I think his approach is too lightweight for Schubert, specialy for the later works.

His version of the 10th doesn't sound right to me either - too fast, too superficial. I found Pierre Bartholomee's version with the Liege Philharmonic on youtube, and his performance, while not perfect, gets to the core of the music. It's a matter of taste of course, whether you regard Schubert as the last classicist, like Marriner appears to do - or the first true romantic and predecessor of Bruckner (Bartholomee).

Interesting as well that Bartholomee includes an earlier unfinished movement as a scherzo - to make it a complete 4-movement symphony. Rather disputable move, even if it doesn't sound really out of place. Marriner (and Newboult) argue that the 10th's 3rd movement incorporporates both scherzo and finale, which would make it some pre-runner of Sibelius' 3rd symphony. Wishful thinking, in my opinion, i don't really hear this hybrid character in the music. Batholomee may be right about a movement missing, but it could very well be the finale, not the scherzo. A full-bodied finale would be in place after the quirky movement that concludes the symphony now, and I'm sure Schubert would have written it, but alas, fate decided otherwise.

EDIT: I looked further into the matter and it appears that the sketches of the eraly scherzo which Bartholomee included in his version of the 10th were notated in the same sketchbook that contained the other movements of the symphony. So that lends credibility to his hypothesis that Schubert may have intended to use this early scherzo in his new symphony.

RE: Unfinished Business: Schubert

Graham, there's a very good Hyperion disc with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra under Charles Mackerras in Brian Newbould realisations of the 10th and also the earlier D major 1818 and 1820-21 abandoned symphonies.

Presto Classical reference here:


RE: Unfinished Business: Schubert

Thanks John. I had not heard of that recording but it sounds like the one to go for. I already have Mackerras with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in the "Great C major". There is so much to look for in Schubert's music. If only he'd lived a full life.


RE: Unfinished Business: Schubert

Some interesting comments. Now I know why side 7 of my boxed set of LPs (with no notes) has overtures! I put Gastein Symphony into a search engine which quotes Grove as saying it was thought to be a lost symphony but is now recognized to be what I still think of as No 9. The set by Peter Maag & the Philharmonia Hungarica is good.

One disc of 8 & 9 which impressed me is by John Pritchard & the LPO on CfP. I thought I was buying Moura Lymany's Trout but the (sealed) case contained the symphonies. I gave it a play and was impressed and thought this is definately worth keeping. I later returned to the shop and got the Lympany  (which was in the sealed case for the symphonies).  I think Pritchard oberves every repeat (over 79 minutes for the two).

Krips's LSO 9 is excellent but my favourite Schubert symphony recording has to be Beecham's 3 & 5.

RE: Unfinished Business: Schubert

I agree, 33lp: the Beecham & RPO's recordings of Schubert's 3rd, 5th and 6th from mid to late 50's are outstanding indeed (notably the 3rd!).

Another classic is Furtwangler's reading of the great one (DG/1951): my favourite. Talking about "the unfinished", if you want to go historic, the same Furtwangler & VPO team recorded a great version in 1950: the one to go imo.

But if sound is a prime concern and you look for a good digital recording, look for Wand & BPO's recording on RCA (1995) - a good contender for Krips - originally available in a twofer comprising both 8th and 9th: very good even though Wand's pace imo sometimes is a bit .....on the slow side (typical of the last Wand's readings?).

RE: Unfinished Business: Schubert

78RPM wrote:
Another classic is Furtwangler's reading of the great one (DG/1951): my favourite.

The 1942 live recording of the 9th is even more electrifying, but the 1951 studio recording may be a tad more balanced, and it has the benefit of a better recording. Choosing between those two legendary performances is impossible, at least for me.

RE: Unfinished Business: Schubert

Thanks everyone for these suggestions. Parla I have just raided my old man's collection this afternoon and listened to the 'stormy' Karajan as you nicely put it. Yes, it is stormy!

It's coupled with Dvorak's New World on DG CD. The date of the Schubert is 1965 with the BPO of course which interestingly puts it in the same time-zone as the Bohm with the same orchestra.

I just have one quibble about this Karajan version; the dynamic contrasts in the 1st movement are a bit too dramatic and accentuated for me. The 2nd movement is better in terms of dynamics and the mood is just right.

Not sure yet whether to go for Abbado, Kleiber, Krips etc...The mention of the Furtwangler has got me interested too!




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