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Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Romantic Era > Symphony No. 1, in B Flat. Op. 38 ("Spring Symphony") - Schumann


Symphony No. 1, in B Flat. Op. 38 ("Spring Symphony")

Robert Schumann
(1810-56)



1. Andante un poco maestoso. Allegro molto vivace.

2. Larghetto.

3. Scherzo. Molto vivace.

4. Finale. Allegro animato e gracioso.

Schumann's First Symphony, in B Flat, was written in 1841, and was first performed at the Leipzig Gewandhaus concerts, under Mendelssohn's direction, March 31 of that year. According to Hanslick, Schumann himself characterized it as the "Spring Symphony."

The first movement is prefaced with a brief introduction of a passionate and earnest character, its opening phrase, given out by the horns and trumpets, playing an important part in the progress of the movement. In the development there are sombre suggestions; but with a sudden change in the harmony, the flute is heard with a more cheering tone, the violins rush in, and with a grand sweep the whole orchestra opens the fresh and vigorous Allegro, its first theme being similar to that of the Andante. The second theme, prefaced in the horns and given out by the clarinet with viola accompaniment, is a unique and thoroughly characteristic melody. As it develops it gathers fresh life and force. New and piquant phrases are introduced, and blend with it, one of them forming a charming accompaniment to the first theme. The Coda is constructed freely and broadly, and works up to a climax leading at last, after a pizzicato passage, to a joyful rhythmical song given out first by the strings and then by full orchestra.





The Larghetto movement is a grand fantasie, full of passionate devotion and almost religious in its character, showing unmistakably the influence of Beethoven. Its opening theme is given out by the violins and then repeated by the cellos, a new and characteristic phrase appearing in the accompaniment. Again it appears in the oboes and horns, most ingeniously varied. Its treatment on each reappearance grows more elaborate, and fresh phrases wander from one instrument to another.

The beautiful fantasie finally dies away, and with slight pause the Scherzo opens with a vigorous theme which has already been indicated in the close of the Larghetto. As opposed to it Schumann has written two trios in different rhythms. The first is thoroughly original, and rich and tender in its harmony. The second is equally characteristic, and clearly enough reveals the union of Schumann's romantic style with the old minuet form. At the close of the Scherzo the first trio again appears, and the movement ends with diminuendo.

The Finale begins with a scale passage, which is a prominent feature in the movement. Its first theme is fresh, gay, and vigorous, and after its statement leads to an interesting dialogue in which a new and lively subject and the scale passage of the opening take part. The second theme is full of joyous contentment, and in the development the first theme appears opposed to it, with freshly varied treatment, until the brilliant and powerful close is reached.





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