Vladimir Jurowski and the Russian National Orchestra brought Schubert's
"Finished Symphony" to Davies Hall tonight, thank heaven for small favors.
I am jesting: even in its current form, the B minor symphony is called
the "Unfinished," whatever the efforts of one Anton Safronov. Schubert
did his part in 1822 - six full years before his short life ended,
so had he wanted to... right! Moscow Conservatory student Safronov
(now on the faculty) started tinkering with the symphony (because of "a
response from deep within") added two movements for a Baden-Baden premiere
in 2005. A revised version premiered last October; tonight, it was the
first American performance by the Russian National, an orchestra financed
by San Franciscan Gordon Getty and Charles Simonyi of Seattle - not by
(Asked orchestra members in the intermission if they knew why RNO is not
coming to Napa's Festival del Sole this year, after two successful seasons
there, and was told "nyet," meaning that they don't know. I think they
Jurowski is a major conductor and RNO is a decent orchestra, but their
cooperation on the "known portion" of the Schubert provided no great
thrills. Correct and well put together, the music had a feeeling of...
having been put together. A few misguided souls at the end of the Allegro
thought it would be fun to clap their hands together, tentativelike, but
they got looks of dagger from Jurowski, ceased and desisted. At the end
of the Andante, the conductor took no chance, and launched into the New
Material without taking a breath.
Here are the stats: 17 minutes for the first movement, 10 for the second;
the Safronov addition comes with a six-minute "Allegro-Trio (Piu lento)"
[a scherzo, really], and a 14-minute Allegro giusto. They both have
repetitive material and sound closer to Tchaikovsky than Schubert.
Safronov used fragments left behind by Schubert for the third movement
("My main compositional decisions and solutions were founded on intuition
and quite impossible to describe or explain" - that's encouraging), and
made up the fourth movement without anything to go on; there were no
sketches left whatsoever.
"For the main themes," Safronov writes, "I reworked... (pieces from)
the B minor Marche heroique for four hands, D.602, and a fragment of
the F-sharp minor Piano Sonata, D.571. that were composed in the same
creative phase as the Unfinished Symphony. I found in them certain
important grains that correspond to the tonal and motivic grains that
correspond to the tonal and motivic ideas of the original material of
So how does that complete the Unfinished Symphony? Not very well.
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