Schubert was only eighteen years old when he completed Symphony No. 3. At that time, he was already working as a school teacher but was still studying composition with Antonio Salieri, a well-known opera composer and Kapellmeister at the Viennese Court. There is no clear record of the premiere of the symphony. It is highly plausible that the composition was never performed by professional musicians at a public concert during Schubert’s life time. The first known public performance of the symphony took place in London on February 19, 1881.
Symphony No. 3 is scored for a full-scale orchestra of the time, calling for strings and a pair each of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, French horns, trumpets and drums. It is not a lengthy work in comparison with Schubert’s other similar pieces. Nevertheless, the composition comprises four movements that are typically included in the symphonies of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The first movement begins with a short introduction that produces a bright and pleasant tone that remains throughout the whole symphony. After the monotonously sounding first note marked with a fermata, the woodwinds in the high register repeat the same notes in tremolo. These, together with violins playing scale-like figures, create an innocent and tranquil sonority, which immediately invites the listener to a heavenly atmosphere. The last movement of Symphony No. 3 foresees the finales of Schubert’s later compositions. In such movements, the composer writes continuously moving fast notes to maintain the mood of “quickness.” The best example of this type of closing movement is the finale of the C-major “Great” symphony. Similarities between the final movement of the last symphony Schubert completed and that of Symphony No. 3 are easily audible.