COMPOSED BY

Franz Schubert (January 1797 - November 1828) in 1824

DURATION

Approximately 60 minutes (total 6 movements)

Instrumentation

Clarinet, bassoon, horn, 2 violins, viola, cello, and bass.

SUMMARY OF THE COMPOSITION

Commissioned by the prominent clarinetist Ferdinand Troyer, Octet in F Major was written based on Troyer’s request for a work similar to Beethoven’s Septet, Op. 20. This piece was composed in the same period as two of Schubert’s major chamber works, the ‘Rosamunde’ and ‘Death and the Maiden’ string quartets. 

1

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.

2

Adagio

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.

3

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.

4

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.

5

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.

6

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.

WHO IS ... Franz Schubert?

Suprising fun facts

  • Schubert was nicknamed “little mushroom” for his height (five foot one) and plump body.
  • Schubert was the youngest among his 14 siblings and one of the four who survived to adulthood. After the passing of his mother, his father remarried and had five more children.
  • Peter Schubert, Franz’s father, was a teacher by profession and an amateur cellist. He taught his son the basics of music. Like any proud parent, he hoped young Franz would take after him and be a teacher.
  • Among the great Viennese composers, Schubert was the only one born in Vienna.
  • At 19, Schubert began to read law and composed Symphony No.5.

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