Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Romantic Era > Symphony No. 2, in C Major. Op. 61 - Schumann
Symphony No. 2, in C Major. Op. 61
1. Sostenuto assai. Allegro ma non troppo.
2. Scherzo. Allegro vivace.
3. Adagio espressivo.
4. Allegro molto vivace.
Schumann's C Major Symphony No. 2 * was sketched in 1845 and completed in 1846. It was first performed at a Leipzig Gewandhaus concert, under Mendelssohn's direction, November 5, 1846.
[* Note: The C major is in reality the Third Symphony, though numbered as the Second, and in order of date follows the B flat, D minor, and E -- known as the "Overture, Scherzo, and Finale."]
The prelude, which introduces the first movement, is in the nature of an overture to the symphony, setting forth its story. Its opening theme will be found in each of the movements, and it also foreshadows the leading theme of the first. It is given out by the trumpets, horns, and trombone, with harmonious accompaniments by the strings. After a few bars a romantic phrase appears in the accompaniment for the woodwinds, which is also repeated in the other movements. As the introduction progresses the time is accelerated, and a new subject is assigned to the flutes and oboes, which leads up to the principal theme -- a resolute, energetic melody followed by a vigorous phrase, already heard, but now appearing with a fresh accompaniment and leading to the second theme, of a less energetic character, which closes the first part of the movement. The second part is devoted to the elaborate development of this thematic material, which leads to up a return of the first theme, after a long organ-point in the basses, with unique wind accompaniment. In the Coda, after a treatment of associated subjects, the trumpets take up the opening of the prelude again, this time in sonorous and aggressive style.
The Scherzo shows us Schumann in one of his rare joyous moods. Its first theme is given out by the violins, to which a counter-theme is opposed, with an accompaniment in contrary motion. The Scherzo has two trios. The first is a melody in triplets, divided between the woodwinds and strings. The second, which is more subdued, is taken by the strings in full harmony. In the return the trios are displaced by the first theme; and in the Coda the trumpets and horns, with scale accompaniment by the violins, again give out the theme of the prelude.
The Adagio is in marked contrast to the preceding movements, expressing tenderness and devotion instead of conflict. Without introduction the strings alone sing a passionate love song, the oboes and clarinets subsequently adding their voices to the beautiful strain. A brief interlude leads to the second theme, assigned to the strings, accompanied by the trumpet and horns. After its statement the love song is repeated by the violins in octaves trilling downward, the woodwinds closing it. The second part closely resembles the first and closes peacefully, with no allusion to the trumpet theme of the prelude.
The Finale begins with a rapid scale passage leading up to the martial first theme. The transition to the second theme is a characterized by vigorous and striking rhythms. The theme itself, suggestive of the Adagio, is given out by the violas, cellos, clarinets, and bassoons, accompanied by the violin scale-passage mentioned above and the wind instruments in triplets, and gradually leads to a return of the first subject. The end of the conflict is marked by a climax in which the trumpet theme is again heard. After suggestive rests the oboe intones a simple theme, but full of joy and victory, which is worked up to a climax. It then appears broader and more freely for the strings, and from this point moves on to the close like a grand hymn of thanksgiving, the trumpet theme making its last appearance near the end.