The Symphony No. 9 in C major, D. 944, known as the Great (published in 1840 as “Symphony No. 7 in C Major”, listed as No. 8 in the Neue Schubert-Ausgabe), is the final symphony completed by Franz Schubert. Originally called The Great C major to distinguish it from his Symphony No. 6, the Little C major, the subtitle is now usually taken as a reference to the symphony’s majesty. A typical performance takes around 55 minutes, though it can be played in as little as 45 minutes by employing a faster tempo and not repeating sections as indicated in the score.
For a long time, the symphony was believed to be a work of Schubert’s last year, 1828. It was true that, in the last months of his life, he did start drafting a symphony – but this was the work in D major now accepted as Symphony No. 10, which has been realized for performance by Brian Newbould. In fact, we now know that the ‘Great’ was largely composed in sketch in the summer of 1825: that, indeed it was the work to which Schubert was referring in a letter of March 1824 when he said he was preparing himself to write ‘a grand symphony’. By the spring or summer of 1826 it was completely scored, and in October, Schubert, who was quite unable to pay for a performance, sent it to the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde with a dedication. In response they made him a small payment, arranged for the copying of the orchestral parts, and at some point in the latter half of 1827 gave the work an unofficial play-through (the exact date and the conductor are unknown) – though it was considered too long and difficult for the amateur orchestra of the conservatory.