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Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Romantic Era > Symphony No. 4, in D Minor. Op. 120 - Schumann


Symphony No. 4, in D Minor. Op. 120

Robert Schumann
(1810-56)



1. Introduction.

2. Allegro.

3. Romanza.

4. Scherzo and Finale.

Schumann's Fourth Symphony, really his Second, was originally written in 1841, but was not revised and put into its present form until 1851. Its title is "Symphony No. 4, D minor, Introduction, Allegro, Romanza, Scherzo, and Finale in one piece," the parts passing into one another without pause, and united by the use of subjects already stated.

The Introduction opens with a theme in the violas and cellos of a somewhat melancholy character, and after its brief development, with a gradually accelerated tempo, the Allegro enters with a theme dry and difficult in its contents, but used with masterly effect in its development, and presenting unusual strength, in spite of its unmelodious nature. Though there is a second theme, more gracious in style, the first dominates the whole first part of the movement. After the usual repeat the second part is treated in the style of a free fantasie, with entirely new material, in which respect Schumann makes a wide departure from the established forms. It is built up mainly on two episodes -- the first given out with full strength by the winds, and in the repeat by the strings, and the second by the violins. The entire second part is devoted to the elaboration of these two episodes in a bold and striking manner, and it closes with fiery emphasis, in strange contrast with the movement to which it leads.





A single chord binds it to the Romanza, which opens with a simple, plaintive, and exquisitely refined melody. It is given out by the oboes and cellos, with the strings pizzicato. A short phrase follows in the violas. Then succeeds a passage from the Introduction which reminds us that this tender Romanza is filling its part in the general symphonic design. A repetition of its phrase leads to a second subject given out by the strings, which a solo violin heightens the beautiful effect with a variation on the principal theme. The movement closes with the tender song that opens it.

The Scherzo opens with a strong, energetic theme in full orchestra, except trombones, which has few reminders of the ordinary Scherzo lightness and caprice. The second part, however, is more gracious, and the Trio is soft and dreamy. At its close the Scherzo reappears, followed by the Trio, in the midst of which there is a moment of restlessness, as if the instruments knew not which way to turn. Instead of leading back to the Scherzo the music diminishes in tone as if it would disappear, when suddenly the winds give out a melodious phrase leading into the Finale. The short introduction, which contains familiar material, prepares the way for the opening theme, which is also familiar, as it has appeared in nearly the same form in the first movement. At its close occurs a subject, only a bar in length, which plays an important part in the final development. The second theme is an odd mixture of fancy and frolic. After the customary reprise Schumann gives himself up to his mood, quitting the first subject altogether and elaborating the second until in the Coda we meet with a new and unexpected theme. The Finale closes presto with a genuine Italian stretta.





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