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Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Romantic Era > Overture to "Genoveva". Op. 81 - Schumann


Overture to "Genoveva". Op. 81

Robert Schumann
(1810-56)



"Genoveva," the only opera Schumann attempted, was composed in 1847, and was first performed in Leipzig in 1850, Schumann himself conducting the work. It did not prove a success and was withdrawn after a few presentations, but the overture still retains its place on concert programs. The story, briefly told, is as follows: Genoveva is married to the Knight Siegfried and is devotedly attached to him. During his absence in the wars, Golo makes overtures to her and attempts to effect her ruin. Being repulsed, he accuses her to Siegfried of infidelity with Drago, one of the servants. When Siegfried returns, he orders her to be put to death. The attendants, to whom the execution of the penalty is intrusted, merely leave her in the forest to die. When Golo's treachery is discovered, he seeks Genoveva, finds her in the forest, and Siegfried and she are reconciled, while Golo is executed.

The introduction to the overture is exceedingly sombre in character, with marked dissonances and a plaintive passage in the violins, which may indicate Genoveva's grief at Siegfried's wrath and her banishment from the castle. The main section opens with a restless, passionate theme in the violins, with cello accompaniment, followed by a charming hunting passage in the horns, continued by the oboes and flutes. After the free fantasia, the violins and violas lead, fortissimo, to the third part, after the usual development. The Coda, based upon the second theme, holds its way until at last the trombones bring the overture to an exultant close.





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