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Schubert began both a law degree and his Symphony No. 5 in the same year. In this instance at least, it was the degree rather than the music that would remain unfinished.
Once he had dropped out of studying and taken his washing back home, he fell in with the ‘right’ set: a chap called Schober, who was a one-man larger-than-life walking arts movement. And so it was that we come to have Schubert the composer, not the legal pen-pusher. Thank goodness.
This is the perfect entry level for anyone to whom you want to introduce Schubert with the intention of making sure that they want to hear more. It’s fresh, it’s fairly light and it’s just bursting with tunes, in every nook and cranny. And that fits with exactly where Schubert was in life when he wrote it. At nineteen, this might well have been the piece that caused him to break off from his planned law degree. This symphony is a real product of its time – it could almost be by Mozart, given its youthful exuberance.
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra; Nikolaus Harnoncourt (conductor). Teldec: 2564688316.
Illustration: Mark Millington