Franz Schubert - Symphony No. 8, "Unfinished"

Second Movement video

Another mainstay of the audition repertoire, this little jewel of a piece has many pitfalls in and out of the solo passages. In the first movement, the first theme is stated beginning in measure 13 by the clarinet and oboe in unison. It is usually best to get together with the oboist before hand to go over intonation. When playing this with the strings, it is often difficult to find the beat in their repeated 16th notes. If the conductor does not help keep you and the oboist together, particularly on the eighth-notes, ask the oboist to nod a little and follow them. Try to keep expression to a minimum until the hairpin, where you can really wail. Measure 29 should be played a little louder than p so that the clarinets are heard above the clearing fp and the sustaining instruments. The syncopations after A are difficult to play soft enough and without dragging. Playing each first note a little louder followed by a small dim. will help, and will phrase nicely. If you are on time with the first note, the rest should follow quite easily. Beware of the string rubato and go with it. Sing a little on the suspensions such as in bar 52. Get VERY soft during the decresc. and take it all the way to niente. The sf in this piece are with more pressure than striking. Play them deeply. As with Beethoven, modern performance practice lends itself to certain balance problems. One such problem is 6 before D - play as loudly as you can. At the end of the movement, you and the oboe play a stripped down first motive in measure 352 with a HUGE cresc. up to f and back. Here the difficulty is making the change without going out of tune (be careful not to go flat), or changing the tone color or balance between you at all. Beforehand practice will also help this.

The second movement is what is asked on most auditions. Recent performances have reversed the trend of playing this movement too slowly. It is marked Andante con moto, and should really go at about an eighth-note=96. At this tempo, you may even be able to play the long solo in one breath!, but be ready for a wide variety of tempos for this movement. The big solo beginning in measure 66 is over syncopated strings. Be sure to enter and move on time. Precise conducting here helps, but you can't always count on it. There are little sfz in the strings, and sometimes the conductor will stretch to accommodate them, leaving you in the lurch. Be ready for anything during this solo. This solo is beautiful in its architecture and is a great opportunity to show what you and the clarinet can do. Color is key. Take a huge breath and start as softly as you can, but with a precise attack. Do not cresc. on the E. Press into the G at a subito higher dynamic, using breath only for the change. I find it helpful to move my body for this a little too. Fade the hairpin all the way through the bar and to the F# where you are again pp and rather colorless. Play the A similarly to the G, but with ever so slightly more expression - remember, you have a long way to go. This contrast between the desolation of the unaccented notes and the despair of the accented ones can be quite beautiful. Before the 5th bar of the solo is the least obtrusive place for a breath. Though you've just started to play, if you grab a quick breath here, you may not need another one at all. You now have two bars to play a shortened version of your previous expression and get from pp to f. The arrival of f is in measure 72 and that C should be louder than it was when accented in 71. This forte should be glorious, soaring, exultant, and big but NOT loud (i.e. crass, harsh, etc.). Do not press on the f here. Almost immediately, you must return, in two bars, to pp. During your dim., you can also drain all color from the sound and arrive below pp by the end of bar 73. You can then change phrasing direction when you get to bar 74, by adding a little expression and moving the phrase forward. The chord changes there can help you. Also adding the expression can give you a slightly higher dynamic from which to make the final dim. Play from here seemlessly, practically glissing from note to note with your legato. Beginning in 77, play each repeat of the E-G softer, fading away in color and dynamic. You may slur to the final B, as you will be playing so softly no one will notice, and articulation here may destroy the line. You may choose to make more expression out of the final interval of a fifth, or to continue the fade. Either is acceptable and both are beautiful in their own way. If you absolutely must, you may breath before the final G, but do not be late. Fade out on the B as only a clarinet can, arriving at a nearly inaudible level by the beginning of the final bar. Do not hold over the written value, because the oboe enters in the next bar.

After playing ff and then resting for nearly 27 bars, you must play measure 138 as Schubert wrote it: ppp on a high note with an expressive accent. Do not be late. Have some air moving through your instrument in the bars preceding it and take time during the rests to imagine what it feels like to play the Bb. Anyone can play this warm, but you must practice playing it after sitting there for 3 minutes.

The second big solo is merely a restatement of the oboe's first solo. You will be able to play it in one breath no matter how slowly. Instead of being desolate and despairing, you are now in major mode and can be a little more cheerful in your expression. The cresc. here leads to the glorious return of the motive of bar 231 followed by its docissimo echo. Try to play an exact 32nd note without being flippant. Everything here must be very smooth as well. Play a nice cresc. with the flute in 263 without pressing. The solo beginning in measure 276 can be with much expression and a relaxing of dynamic into the tonic of 280. Six bars later you will be able to play a true ppp without being covered, so take advantage of it. Just don't be late entering.