Franz Schubert was born in Vienna, Austria, on 31 January 1797 and died there on 19 November 1828. The first performance of the Eighth Symphony took place in Vienna on 17 December 1865, with Johann Herbeck conducting the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde. The Symphony No. 8 is scored for two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, three trombones, timpani and strings. Approximate performance time is 28 minutes.
No one is certain why Franz Schubert completed only two movements of what, by tradition, should have been a four-movement symphony. Schubert worked on the B-minor Symphony in October and November of 1822. During that time, he composed and orchestrated the first two movements. Schubert also sketched the third movement Scherzo in almost complete form and orchestrated its first nine bars.
No other music survives from this Symphony. Some scholars have opined that Schubert may have intended the identically scored B-minor Entr'acte from his incidental music to Rosamunde to serve as the Symphony's finale. Of course, the Symphony is virtually always performed as a two-movement work, thus its nickname, the "Unfinished.".
Given the overwhelming popularity of the "Unfinished" Symphony, it is incredible to realize that the work did not receive its premiere until thirty-seven years after the composer's death. Schubert originally gave the score to his friend, composer Anselm Huttenbrenner, as thanks for securing his Honorary Membership in the Music Society of Graz. Some thirty years later, Anselm's brother, Joseph, wrote Johann Herbeck, conductor of the prestigious Vienna Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde. Anselm informed Herbeck that the Huttenbrenners possessed "a treasure in Schubert's B-minor Symphony, which we put on a level with the great Symphony in C (No. 9), his instrumental swan song, and any one of the symphonies by Beethoven.".
Five years after this correspondence, Herbeck visited Anselm Huttenbrenner in Graz.