Schubert's most popular symphony, the two-movement "Unfinished" in B Minor, is listed as No. 8 in his cycle, the so-called "Great G. Major" as No. 9; since his six other known symphonies are numbered, reasonably enough, I through 6, the question arises of why there is no No. 7. In a sense, it seems fitting that the two masterworks of Schubert's maturity on his case the period running from about the age of 24 to his death at 31) should be marked off clearly, if only by a void or gap in the cycle, from the charming but conspicuously slighter works composed between the ages of 16 and 21. But this, of course, is not the answer.
Orginially the "Great C. Major" was catalogued as No. 7. When Robert Schumann discovered the manuscript 10 years after Schubert's death, the "Unfinished" was totally unknown and this work was the sole addition to the six earlier symphonies. When the "Unfinished" was unearthed in 1865, it became, as the last addition, No. 8. Subsequently, however, two other symphonies came into the picture, which upset this enumeration.
Alfred Einstein wrote in his books on Schubert that there were not eight symphonies, but 10 -- the last of which was the "Great C Major" (it has borne the number 10 at times, as well as 7 and 9). No. 9, in Einstein's sequence, was a lost Symphony in C, which Schubert supposedly composed the Gmunden-Gastein in 1825, and the number 7 was assigned to a sympony in E major, completed in sketch in 1821 but never fully scored by Schubert beyond the first 110 bars of the opening movement.
The "Gastein" Symphony has never come to light, and some scholars now feel that it is actually the "Great C Major." Joseph Joachim felt that the Grand Duo in C major for piano duet (Op. 140/D. 813) was actually Schubert's reduction of an orchestral score, and he orchestrated it himself as a "restoration" of the lost "Gastein" Symphony. Donald Francis Tovey supported this solution, and wrote at length about Jachim's orchestration in his "Essays in Musical Analysis."
There is no mystery surrounding the symphony in E major. Felix Mendelssohn, who received the score from Schubert's brother Ferdinand in 1846, probably would have orchestrated it, but he died the following year. In 1883 John Francis Barnett produced a little more than half-century later, in 1934, the illustrious conductor Felix Weingartner brought out an orchestral version. This is performed occasionally; and less frequently, so is Joachim's orchestral setting of the Grand Duo. Vanguard recorded both works in Vienna in the early 1950s (conducted by Franz Litschauer and Felix Prohaska, respectively) but those discs have been out of circulation for years now, and it is only this summer that a second recording of the symphony in E appeared.
The performance is by the (East) Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra under Heinz Roegner and is available here on Spectrum SR-116 (cassette SC-116), Roegner and his fine orchestra last year gave us a very impressive account of the "Great C Major," digitally recorded and spread over four sides (Denon OB-7350/51-ND, specially priced at about what some other digital labels ask for a single disc). He is an exceptionally persuasive interpreter of this music, and he makes the strongest case for recognizing Weingartner's effort as part of Schubert's symphonic cycle. This is more than just a curiousity or a novelty; it is something everyone who enjoys Schubert's music (and that would seem to be everyone with ears) ought to get to know. The sound of the new recording is first-rate, and Spectrum's low price makes it all the more appealing.
Now it is time we had a new recording of Joachim's orchestration of the Grand duo. One may not agree with him that the work is actually the "Gastein" Symphony, but it is hard to dispute Tovey's description of the Duo as a "speciman of Schubert's grandest symphonic sytle." From beginning to end," Tovey wrote, "there is not a trace of piano-forte style in the work." Brahms, who was devoted to Schubert and edited his piano sonatas, more or less indicated his approval of Joachim's undertaking by making a little emendation in the score, which Joachim accepted and duly acknowledged in his manuscript. It is unargubly a masterly job on Joachim's part, thoroughly in the Schubertian vein and in fact more intriguing than the Schubert/Weingartner E major, which we know Schubert intended as a symphony, simply because the materials are richer to begin with.
Two or three years ago Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra were scheduled to perform and possibly record the Schubert/Joachim score; the project was shelved and apparently abandoned, but perhaps now we can expect a recording from Roegner. In the meantime, we have the E major: Don't miss it!