Schumann, Symphony No. 1 in B flat, Op. 38, Spring
Written 23 – 26 January 1841, during the Romantic period.
This was Schumann’s first large-scale orchestral work.
Schumann initially gave the four movements individual titles: ‘Spring’s Awakening’, ‘Evening’, ‘Lively Friends’, and ‘Spring’s Farwell’ – however, he later withdrew the titles.
Première on 31 March 1841 in Liepzig, conducted by Felix Mendelssohn.
This symphony has four movements, which was traditional of symphonies from the Classical period.
Listen for the way Schumann uses the timpani to enhance dramatic points in the symphony.
Listen out for all the solos in the orchestra, particularly in woodwind instruments.
How do you think Schumann was feeling when he wrote this?
Movement 1: Andante un poco maestoso – Allegro molto vivace
Listen to the opening fanfare in the horns and trumpets – this is followed by a repeat of the fanfare in the full orchestra. The rhythm of this fanfare derives from the words: ‘Spring is coming in the valley’, in German.
Tchaikovsky adapted this fanfare idea for the opening of his Symphony No. 4.
After the tutti section of the Allegro molto vivace there is a lighter orchestral texture with solos in several instruments:
Flute – clarinet – violas – violins
The violas and violins continue passing the melody between them.
Listen out for the very fast violin parts!
This movement finishes with unison chords in the whole orchestra in B flat – a perfect cadence.
Movement 2: Larghetto – (attaca:)
Lyrical, slow movement
Listen out for the grace notes in the opening melody in the violins
There are lots of solos in this movement, which are passed around the orchestra, for example, twice there is a flute solo passed to the first violins.
Towards the end, listen for a quiet melody in the brass. This is then used in the next movement.
The ending is very quiet – this contrasts with the much more obvious and loud endings of the outer movements.
Movement 3: Scherzo. Molto vivace – Trio I/II
This movement begins with an up-beat. Listen to the emphasis on the first beat of the bar, following this up-beat.
How many times is the opening section repeated throughout this movement?
Following the loud opening section is a quieter passage where the violins accompany solos in the clarinet and flute.
There are three beats in the bar throughout this movement.
Movement 4: Allegro animato e grazioso
This joyous finale has a majestic orchestral opening, followed by a light, staccato passage in the violins – this type of bowing technique is called spiccato.
About half way through this movement almost stops. The horns have slow arpeggios followed by a decorative, unaccompanied flute solo, which leads back to the opening violin theme.
At the end, there are slow, descending arpeggios in the violins with orchestral chords, leading to the grand ending. The timpani supports the perfect cadence
ROBERT SCHUMANN 1810 – 1856
Schumann started playing the piano at the age of 10.
In 1828 he began studying law at the Leipzig University, but after a year decided he wanted to be a musician.
Schumann had piano lessons with Friedrich Wieck who was the father of Clara, whom he married in 1839.
Clara Schumann was also a well-known concert pianist and composer.
Robert and Clara Schumann were very close friends with Johannes Brahms.
Schumann’s aims to become a virtuoso pianist were prevented by an injury to his right hand.
Schumann composed over 150 songs in 1840 – this became known as his ‘year of song’.
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