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Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Saturday, March 21

Schubert's Ninth

Synopsis

In 1838, Robert Schumann visited the grave of Franz Schubert in Vienna and paid a courtesy call on Schubert's brother, Ferdinand, who was still alive. Schumann had heard about Ferdinand's closet full of his brother's manuscripts, and among the dusty music scores that Schumann was shown was one for a big symphony in C Major, unperformed, he was told, because people thought it was too difficult, too bombastic, and far too long.

Looking at the music, Schumann was stunned, and asked if he could arrange to have the symphony played. "Sure," said Ferdinand, and Schumann sent the score off to his friend and fellow composer, Felix Mendelssohn, who was the director of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. Mendelssohn liked what he saw, and gave the first public performance of Schubert's big symphony on today's date in 1839.

After attending the rehearsal, Schumann wrote to his girlfriend, Clara Wieck, "Today I have been in seventh heaven. If only you had been there! For I cannot describe it to you; all the instruments were like human voices, and immensely full of life and wit… and the length, the divine length, like a four-volume novel… I was utterly happy, with nothing left to wish for except that you were my wife and I could write such symphonies myself!"

Well, sometimes wishes do come true, and good deeds are rewarded. Schumann did marry Clara, did write symphonies of his own, and did help launch Schubert's work on its path towards worldwide recognition as a great symphonic masterpiece.

Music Played in Today's Program

Franz Schubert (1797 - 1828) Symphony No. 9 in C Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra; Kurt Masur, cond. Philips 426 269

Additional Information

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