1816: Schubert: Symphony No. 5 in Bb major

TUESDAY, October 27, 2020 – 7:50 AM

Symphony No. 5 in Bb major, age 19

Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 5 in B♭ major, D. 485, was written mainly in September 1816 and completed on October 3, 1816.[1] It was finished six months after the completion of his previous symphony.


  • one flute, two oboes, and two bassoons
  • two horns in B♭ and E
  • strings

Of all of Schubert’s symphonies, it is scored for the smallest orchestra. It is the only one of his symphonies which does not include clarinets, trumpets or timpani as part of the instrumentation.

  • I. 0:16 Allegro, Bb major
    : This is Schubert’s first symphony to not start with a slow introduction. What starts the movement is a four-bar structural upbeat similar to the one that begins the finale of his Fourth Symphony before the main theme starts on bar 5.[3] The main is a simple rising arpeggio with a dotted rhythm that dominates all of the themes of the exposition. The first movement is a slightly unusual sonata form since the recapitulation begins, as in the first movement of Mozart’s sonata facile (and Schubert’s Trout Quintet), in the subdominant, not in the main key of the piece as is more usual. Schubert had previously used this device in his Second Symphony.
  • 7:25 II. Andante con moto, Eb major
    The slow movement opens with a theme in two repeated stanzas. Following that, here is a modulation to C♭ that is very characteristic of Schubert, even at age 19. The return to the main theme is straight, passing through G minor on the way; there is a repetition of the distant modulation afterwards, though to G♭ this time and with a more immediate return.
  • 17:33 III. Menuetto. Allegro molto, Bb major
    The menuetto has the chromaticism though not the polyphony of the menuetto of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Symphony No. 40. The progression used mid-way through the movement to modulate is borrowed almost directly from Mozart — using the same approach (a gradual layering of instruments) to a dominant seventh chord. The trio is quiet throughout, and only gradually accumulates instruments, beginning with only bassoon and strings, and with a subtle suggestion of a pastoral mood over held lower string notes.
  • 22:52 IV. Allegro vivace, Bb major
    The finale is the shortest of the four movements.


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