Adagio – Allegro – Più Allegro
The first movement highlights a revised recapitulation and coda, giving rise to compelling permutations and shifts in mode and mood. After the slow introduction, the movement rolls out two jaunty themes of a sonata-allegro structure and an important closing melody. This first movement ends with a horn solo, a stunning move for chamber music.
This slow movement begins with a long, sentimental cantabile for the clarinet. Then, the clarinet repeats it in a duet with the first violin, intensifying the mood. Instead of alternating the themes usually heard commonly in the conventional slow movement, this movement spins out a whole series of new musical ideas before returning to the original melody. In the second half of the movement, the rising sequences of a new melody ramp up the emotional temperature and closes with a return to secondary themes and a melancholy coda.
Allegro Vivace – Trio – Allegro Vivace
The third movement is a scherzo movement. Unlike the original scherzo invented by the young Beethoven, which is a fast-paced alternative to the minuet/trio combination, Schubert’s scherzo is a lightweight gallop with a more subdued trio.
Andante – Variations. Un Poco Più Mosso – Più Lento
The graceful set of seven variations is based on a melody from Schubert’s early unperformed Singspiel of 1815, Die Freunde von Salamanka, D. 326. The melody is always apparent, though the variations focus on instrumentation with solos and mini-ensembles and ornamental enhancements. The chord progressions of the original theme are given a new facelift from the fourth variations onwards.
Menuetto. Allegretto – Trio – Menuetto – Coda
The minuet section is a holdover of the Baroque dance suite, which acts as an interlude or emotional break after the heavier first two movements in pre-classical symphony. Unexpected moments of pathos are heard, following a tendency of Schubert. The movement shifts back into neutral territory in the trio section. This movement is the most predictable in a large sonata structure.
Andante Molto – Allegro – Andante Molto – Allegro Molto
In the finale, the slow introduction reflects the darkest moment of the entire piece. The tremolos and the sforzando seem to reveal the composer’s inner turmoil. However, this divertimento ends with a jolly dance melody bursting through the clouds instead. The new tunes in this rondo-sonata movement still carry a hint of the initial melancholy, hardly preparing for the shocking twist in the coda, which is a restatement of the introduction in harmonies that foreshadow the most plangent passages by the yet unborn Antonín Dvořák. The Octet concludes with a dispersed mood.