Franz Schubert: Symphony in C Major [Grand Duo]

Franz Schubert by Wilhelm August Rieder 1875Schubert’s Symphony in C Major was originally written as a Sonata in C Major for piano four-hands, D. 812, and remains one of Schubert’s most important works for two pianists. Schubert wrote this work in the spring of 1824 while at Zseliz on the Esterházy estate, probably for the two countesses he was tutoring at the time. The sonata was published after Schubert’s death, in 1837, with the title ‘Grand Duo,’ though there is no evidence that this title in any way came from Schubert.

Schubert’s Symphony in C Major is a mature and characteristic work on the largest scale. The structures of the movements closely resemble those of other Schubert symphonies, and some passages of the Grand Duo seem aimed to reproduce orchestral effects (although both of these observations might apply to some of Schubert’s solo piano sonatas). The work is in four movements: a sonata-form Allegro, a slow-movement Andante, a lively enough Scherzo and a final Allegro vivace that again exhibits Schubert’s capacity for heavenly length.

Schumann and Brahms seemed to think that Schubert’s Grand Duo was either an arrangement of a symphony Schubert had already written or the first version of a work that Schubert intended to score later as a symphony. It was undoubtedly the enthusiasm of Schumann and Brahms that inspired Joseph Joachim, a great violinist for whom Brahms wrote his Violin Concerto, Op. 77, to orchestrate the Grand Duo in 1855. Stylistic accuracy was not Joachim’s main concern, however, and the orchestral sound is more that of a Brahms symphony.