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654

Schubert's Great C Major

Biography of a Symphony

Mark Devoto
October 15, 2011

126 pp.

1 illustrations

ISBN: 978-1576472019

Paperback 6x9in $42.00


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Schubert is known to everyone as the composer of many of the world’s finest songs, but he also excelled as a composer of abundant instrumental music during his short life. The Symphony in C Major, D944, is his last and, in the opinion of many, his greatest work for orchestra. This short book surveys the symphony’s historical background in the context of Schubert’s orchestral works from his earliest years as a composer as well as its performance history, and offers a detailed formal and tonal analysis of each of its four movements.

Music students, professional scholars, and ordinary listeners alike will find this book a valuable guide to one of the most beloved symphonies of all time.

December 11, 2011

Attractively presented with a painting of Bad Gastein (by an unknown artist), the original location where the Great C Major Symphony was written by Franz Schubert, Schubert's Great C Major: Biography of a Symphony presents both history and complexities of the background of the mysterious title work and vigorous, inspired analysis of the exciting harmonics and theme presentation and development of the Great Symphony. In chapters arranged primarily by the four movements - Andante, Allegro con moto, Scherzo, Allegro, and Allegro Vivace, the orchestrated development of imaginative tonalities and themes are relentlessly explored and analyzed, often even reconsidered in light of later influences and composers. Other chapters deal with the amazingly complicated background of the Symphony, Schubert and the Orchestra (there is controversy about Schubert's mastery of instrumental music), the Harmony of Mixed Modes, a fascinating exploration of Schubert's pioneering use of modal interchange, and finally the last chapter, "Envoi - Ein Reicher Besitz," a reference to the gravestone caption for Schubert written by Franz Grillparzer, "The art of music has entombed here a rich possession, but yet more beautiful hopes."

In addition to the material presented in these eight chapters, there are five added appendices containing the material on the autograph (referring to the autograph full score of the Great C Major Symphony, in possession of the Archiv der Gesellschaft der Musickfreunde), Schumann's Neue Zeitschrift fur Musick of March, 1840, the first definitive review of the Great Symphony in both German and English, Bibliography, Discography, and scores of the Great C major Symphony. The offering of Schubert's Great C Major is indeed a biography of a symphony, one of the greatest musical compositions ever written or performed.

Nancy Lorraine
Midwest Book Review

Mark Devoto:

Composer and writer, taught at Reed College, the University of New Hampshire, and for 19 years at Tufts University before his retirement in 2000. An expert on harmony in the 20th century, he has written extensively on the music of Alban Berg and Claude Debussy (Debussy and the Veil of Tonality: Essays On His Music, Pendragon Press, 2004), and edited the revised 4th and 5th editions of Walter Piston’s Harmony, an essential textbook. He lives in Medford, Massachusetts.

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