Schubert – In Mozart’s Shadow?

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Lately I have found myself completely hooked on Franz Schubert (of all addictions, not the worst one to have). I’ve shared with you his:

Impromptus No. 3

Death and the Maiden


and his (finished) Symphony No. 9.

These are extremely diverse pieces, but they have one thing in common: though they elicit a lot of emotions, they don’t radiate happiness. This brings us to the happiest piece I’ve heard from Schubert, his Symphony No. 5. 

I stumbled on it serendipitously on YouTube. At first I thought I was listening to Mozart – it is happy, it is light, there is not a single sad note in it. I was shocked when I learned that it was Schubert. Schubert composed it in 1816 when he was only 19, arguably in his happier days, before he was infected with (then deadly) syphilis. Schubert was infatuated with Mozart and wrote this in his diary: “O Mozart! Immortal Mozart! What countless impressions of a brighter, better life hast thou stamped upon our souls!”

We took my almost-three-year-old daughter, Mia Sarah, to Schubert’s 9th symphony last week (I wrote this in November 2016). I was very nervous. I was thinking, would she be able to sit through a long concert? (The 9th symphony is called “great” because of its length – it is 55 minutes long.) Is she going to be able to be quiet? Well, this concert goes into my memory bank as one of the happiest. Mia Sarah sat patiently through almost the whole thing. Only one-third of the auditorium was filled, and at the end when she got a little impatient, I picked her up and took her to the back rows where she could roam freely without disturbing anyone. My favorite part was when my wife and Mia Sarah were conducting Schubert’s 9th. In fact, Mia Sarah and I have watched a few classical pieces – she sits on my lap and we conduct them together. I am smiling just writing this.

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Franz Schubert


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