The Great Symphony — it's not the title that Schubert chose, or would have chosen, but it has stuck. The nickname was intended to differentiate this C major symphony from the Little C major Symphony No. 6. Traditionally the title of "great" refers to the length of the symphony, not the quality of the music.
There is also some dispute over which number this symphony should bear — as if it matters. Sometimes I’ve got to wonder about musicologists and their axes that oftentimes need grinding. Who cares if this symphony is numbered seven, eight, or nine? Schubert’s final compositions get murky with The Unfinished Symphony causing eternal consternation.
Did he intend to finish it? Was it a complete symphony with only two movements? Why was The Great composed before the The Unfinished was finished? I suppose if one has a doctorate to write or research to accomplish in order to justify one’s academic position, then these questions become necessary.
I think all we need to worry about is that the orchestra knows which piece of music it is playing.
The San Diego Symphony is performing The Great Schubert Symphony this weekend at Symphony Hall. The concerts are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Will it be great? We shall have to go and find out.
Beethoven also appears to have been great, as the Center Chorale presents a concert entitled Beethoven the Great. The Center Chorale is associated with the California Center for the Arts, Escondido. The concert includes two of Beethoven’s choral works, The Chorale Fantasy and The Mass in C Major. The concert is at the Center for the Arts on Sunday, March 1, at 3 p.m.