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Finished business

Franz Schubert's "Unfinished" Symphony has always been a beautiful mystery. The themes, sorrowful and transcendent in a way only Schubert can be, always made listeners wish there were more than two movements -- which is all that remained of the work when Schubert died, tragically, when he was just 31 years old.

Did Schubert intend to make the music into a traditional, four-movement symphony? Sketches suggest to scholars that he did. This weekend, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and Music Director JoAnn Falletta will be presenting a completed version set forth by Schubert scholar Brian Newbould and conductor Mario Venzago. Schubert fans will be especially intrigued by the last movement, drawn from the master's music for "Rosamunde."

Also on the program is the orchestral arrangement of Schubert's famous "Death and the Maiden" Quartet. The piece draws its name from the slow movement, which Schubert based on his haunting song "Death and the Maiden." In the song, a girl confronting Death pleads that the specter pass her by. Death reassures her with a stately, strangely comforting melody. The quartet, and the symphonic arrangement, features only Death's theme. As a whole, the work is a masterpiece of emotion, darkness and, at the same time, utter loveliness.Bring cough drops, because this weekend's performances will be recorded for future commercial use.

The concerts take place in Kleinhans Music Hall at 10:15 a.m. today, 8 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. For information, call 885-5000.

-- Mary Kunz Goldman

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