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Schubert symphony no. 9

In 1838, ten years after the death of Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann traveled to Vienna, and while he was there he paid a visit to the graves of Schubert and Beethoven. On a whim, Schumann decided to call on Schubert’s brother, Ferdinand, who was living in Vienna, and this turned out to be perhaps the most fortuitous social call in the history of music.

And that’s because Ferdinand showed Schumann a bunch of his brother’s unpublished manuscripts, and among them was the manuscript—the long-forgotten manuscript—of  Schubert’s Symphony Number 9, the “Great C Major” Symphony. Schumann immediately recognized it as a masterpiece—a piece, he later wrote, that takes us far beyond “mere ordinary joy and sorrow” to “a region that we never before explored.” He sent the music on to Felix Mendelssohn, who had it played by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra—and the rest is history. But imagine if Schumann hadn’t made that social call! 

A Minute with Miles is a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.

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Miles Hoffman is the founder and violist of the American Chamber Players, with whom he regularly tours the United States, and the Virginia I. Norman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Chamber Music at the Schwob School of Music, in Columbus, Georgia. He has appeared as viola soloist with orchestras across the country, and his solo performances on YouTube have received well over 700,000 views.