Composers Datebook®

Schubert's 'Unfinished' business

Composers Datebook - 20231217


When Franz Schubert died in Vienna in 1828, he left behind several manuscripts of symphonies unpublished and, in some cases, unperformed during his short lifetime. It wasn’t until today’s date in 1865 — 37 years after Schubert’s death — that his most famous symphony received its premiere performance in his hometown of Vienna.

This Symphony in B-minor came to be called the Unfinished, since its manuscript score contained only two completely finished movements. A normal Viennese symphony of Schubert’s time should contain four movements, and, in fact, a fairly complete piano sketch of the third movement exists, as does a full score of just the first nine measures of that same movement.

When Johann van Herbeck conducted the Vienna Philharmonic in the first performance in 1865, he tacked on the last movement of Schubert’s Third Symphony as a finale. More recently, some scholars have argued that a portion of Schubert’s Rosamunde incidental music was in fact the missing final movement of his symphony.

Despite these attempts to finish the Unfinished, most performers and audiences seem content to hear the score as Schubert left it — romantically cut short, just like the composer’s tragically short life.

Music Played in Today's Program

Franz Schubert (1795-1828) Symphony No. 8 (arr. Brian Newbould); Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields; Neville Marriner, cond. Philips 412 176

On This Day


  • 1749 - Italian composer Domenico Cimarosa, in Aversa;

  • 1894 - American conductor Arthur Fiedler, in Boston;

  • 1904 - Soviet composer Dimtri Kabalevsky, in St. Petersburg (Gregorian date: Dec. 30);


  • 1562 - Flemish composer Adrian Willaert, age. c. 72, in Venice;

  • 1870 - Italian composer Giuseppe Saverio Mercadante, age 75, in Naples;

  • 1930 - British composer Peter Warlock (Philip Heseltine), age 36, commits suicide in London;


  • 1737 - Handel: anthem “The Ways of Zion do Mourn” in London at King Henry VII’s Chapel in Westminster Abbey, during the funeral service for Queen Caroline , a major patroness of Handel’s (Gregorian date: Dec. 28);

  • 1853 - Brahms: Piano Sonata No. 1 in C, Op. 1, and "Scherzo" in eb, at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig, by the composer at his public debut during a chamber concert of the David Quartet;

  • 1865 - Schubert: "Unfinished" Symphony in b (No. "8") in Vienna, Johann von Herbeck conducting; For this performance, the last movement of Schubert's Symphony No. 3 was appended as a finale;

  • 1879 - Dvorák: String Quartet No. 10, Op. 51, in Prague;

  • 1887 - Rimsky-Korsakov: “Capriccio Espagnol,” in St. Petersburg, by the Russian Symphony, with the composer conducting (see Julian date: Dec. 5);

  • 1937 - Miaskovsky: Symphony No. 17, in Moscow;

  • 1953 - Shostakovich: Symphony No. 10, by the Leningrad Philharmonic, Yevgeny Mravinsky conducting;

  • 1954 - Persichetti: Symphony No. 4, by the Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy conducting;

Love the music?

Donate by phone

Show your support by making a gift to YourClassical.

Each day, we’re here for you with thoughtful streams that set the tone for your day – not to mention the stories and programs that inspire you to new discovery and help you explore the music you love.

YourClassical is available for free, because we are listener-supported public media. Take a moment to make your gift today.

More Ways to Give

Your Donation


Latest Composers Datebook® Episodes


Latest Composers Datebook® Episodes


About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

About Composers Datebook®