Listen: Schubert’s finished symphony by Huawei

Listen: Schubert’s finished symphony by Huawei


norman lebrecht

February 05, 2019

The Chinese have complete the Unfinished.

Download it here.



  • Violist says:

    Questions must be answered:
    1) How exactly did the Mate 20 “listen” to the existing work? By recording? Or an XML file or something like it? Would a recording from Walter lead to a different outcome than one from Marriner?
    2) If this Mate 20 is so smart, why did Mr. Cantor have to “arrange” and orchestrate? Did the Mate 20 ONLY create melodies and Cantor went from there?
    3) The orchestration, particularly in the 4th movement sounds little like Schubert. The harmony, too, is hardly Schubertian.
    4) Hardly convincing as a Schubert completion, yet I’ll rate it above most of the dreck the serialists from 1950 on have done.

    • Sam Bork says:

      It is fairly nice music, but CERTAINLY not Schubert! The reappearance of the opening motif in the end of the 3rd movement is more like Dvorak, a late romantic device. The last movement doesn’t sound Schubertian at all.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Since there is already so much artificial intelligence around in music life, it’s indeed best to put it in a machine so that the space for real intelligence can be extended. – Just now my PA is protesting that it should be the other way around in the way Boulez tried already years ago in his cellar.

  • David Oberg says:

    1.) Fortunately, there was no mucking about with the completed movements.
    Equally fortunate, Schubert’s significant sketches (some orchestrated) for a third movement scherzo were ignored.
    2.) To my ears, around 31:40, there is an off-kilter allusion to the “Emperor’s Hymn” used by Haydn in the second movement of his String Quartet in C, Op 76/3.
    3.) At 33:17, there is a watery quote from a transition in Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.
    4.) Do I hear un-Schubertian cross-rhythms or actual multi-metrics in the “scherzo”?
    5.) Cymbal crashes and timpani rolls!?!?!?!?!?!? In Schubert?????
    6.) Melodic lines that pop up, end suddenly or go nowhere, harmonic changes that are not Schubertian by a mile, incomprehensible orchestration (at best, sounding at times a bit Romantic Era Russian).
    7.) I guess I could go on. Basically, grade-C film music by a composer with an Emmy Award who seemingly wishes to be anonymous (wise move) and two contraptions that make life “humanly possible”.

  • tian says:

    Huawei must die.

  • Bruce says:

    I’m of the school of thought that thinks the “Unfinished” is not really unfinished. Schubert might have toyed around with writing more movements but he didn’t seem to suffer overmuch from writer’s block — I feel fairly confident that if he’d wanted to finish it, he could have.

    So even if there are sketches, I’m not able to get up much interest in what a real composer wants to make out of them, let alone a machine.

    • Novagerio says:

      Bruce: Indeed! Schubert wrote his Two-movement miracle in 1823, five years before his death. If he had wanted to “complete it” (a Scherzo/Ländler and a “Finale Vivace”), he certainly would have done it. The title “Unvollendete” is merely an “editorial label” at a time a Symphony had to have 4 movements. (By the way, Mozart’s no.32 in G Major K318 is also in two movements, written as an Introduction and “Overtura Italiana”).

      “Finishing” the masterpieces of geniuses is an idea presumptuous musicology-balloonheads do in order to get publicity and fool eventually naive listeners.

      • Steven Larsen says:

        First of all, he wrote the first two movements in 1822, as well as the (quite substantial) sketch for the third movement. Schubert was decidedly not an innovator in form, and any notion that he was keen to abandon the four movement model of the symphony is belied by his Symphony No. 7 in E major (also incomplete) and his Great C major symphony, No. 9. The general trend at the time was for bigger symphonies with more movements.
        Second, “Unvollendete” might be an editorial label, but it wasn’t used until the first performance in 1865. This is well into the middle of the century, after Berlioz had exploded the notion of what a symphony was, Liszt folded the symphony into the symphonic poem, Wagner declared the music drama as the prevailing standard of musical expression, and most others had abandoned the genre completely.
        Third, the absolutely unique nature of Mozart’s Symphony No. 32 (both its form and the circumstances of its composition) make it the exception that proves the rule.
        The fact is that Schubert was an extraordinarily prodigious composer who left a lot of work unfinished. He was 25 when he started the B minor symphony; who among us, at age 25, didn’t feel immortal, with plenty of time to do everything we wanted?
        I, too, feel that the first two movements of the B minor symphony are astonishing, but I don’t think that Schubert wanted to leave them that way. I believe that they represented such a leap in the style and substance of symphonic writing that Schubert must have felt intimidated by his own work. How to write a fourth movement that would be worthy of the first 2-1/2? I think that Schubert thought that sooner or later the Muse would visit again and show him The Way. We know for sure it isn’t the the Huawei.

        • Bruce says:

          I agree, I think. Not being a willing revolutionary, he probably wouldn’t say “the hell with tradition — this is my creation and it shall stand as I made it” but would try to make it a “complete” symphony.

          OTOH, as you point out, he probably recognized the unlikelihood that even he would be able to match the level of inspiration of those first two movements: better to leave them as they were than saddle them with a second-rate (or even merely excellent) scherzo and finale just for the sake of getting the piece “finished.”

          If he’d lived longer, he might eventually have found that creative “zone” again…

  • Jim says:

    I’m sorry, am I missing something? The link above goes to the old promo promise. I tracked this down
    It claims to be the completion but sounds like it was completed by Wagner in association with a Hollywood Hack.

  • Fiddlist says:

    That is so incredibly dumb. The new bits sound like a rejected soundtrack to Jurassic Park. Schubert is rolling in his grave, or striking lightning down on the human that helped with this.

  • Esther Cavett says:

    Wasn’t one theory that because the first movement is in 3/4 then the second in 3/8 and if there were to be a traditional minuet or scherzo in 3/4 the whole structure would be off kilter. I don’t know why people or machines try to ‘complete’ this two movement masterpiece.

  • Emanuele Passerini says:

    Huawei produce wonderful devices. Period. Anything else is just useless marketing. Don’t waste time

  • Zacharias Galaviz Guerra says:

    It’s about what we expected. Not Schubert within a mile’s stretch.

  • Stuart says:

    For more than two years I have written a weekly blog on artificial intelligence and machine learning. So much of what is presented today as “artificial intelligence” isn’t – it is an arena that has been taken over by marketing departments and hyped beyond reality. There are plenty of examples of real innovation in AI and ML, especially in healthcare, financial services, autonomous driving and facial recognition, but this Schubert example seems to be more Lucas Cantor than AI. I don’t know how much it sounds like Schubert as I’ve only heard a clip (which doesn’t sound much like Schubert) but it feels less like an AI innovation (or ML innovation) than a stunt. The marketing hype really comes out in what they say: “We have used the capabilities of artificial intelligence to push the boundaries of what is humanly possible and thus see the positive impact that technology could have on modern culture,” says Walter Ji, president of Huawei’s consumer business group for the Western Europe region. “If our smartphone is smart enough to do that, how far can it go?” Read that first sentence over agin to appreciate its true BS nature.

  • Kevin Scott says:

    Let’s get right to the point.

    1) Schubert most likely did finish this work, but I echo many musicologists who feel that the third and fourth movements that he penned (a scherzo whose first seven or nine measures were orchestrated while the rest is in piano sketch, and a finale that Schubert used as an Entr’acte to his incidental music for “Rosamunde”) simply did not equal in quality or originality to the first two movements that he composed.

    2) This “completion” is very alien to Schubert’s style, as the orchestration is very slick and, in the worst sense of the world, Hollywood-ish. It’s as if Schubert composed a work in this century and had it “sweetened” by a skilled film orchestrator for an epic fantasy adventure directed by Steven Spielberg!

    3) While there are several musicologists, conductors and composers who have done their best to “finish” the “Unfinished”, the one that comes closest is William Carragan, who found a way to make the allegedly discarded finale (the B minor Entr’acte for “Rosamunde”) work by re-working and re-structuring its material so it sounds like a finale, while fleshing out and expanding the Scherzo. There is an upload on YouTube of this version, which I do recommend.