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Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Romantic Era > Symphony No. 3 ("Rhenish"), in E Flat. Op. 97 - Schumann

Symphony No. 3 ("Rhenish"), in E Flat. Op. 97

Robert Schumann

1. Allegro.
2. Scherzo.
3. Andante.
4. Lento.
5. Allegro finale.

The Symphony in E flat, though numbered the Third, was the Fourth in order to composition, and is familiarly known as "The Rhenish," the title being derived from the impressions of life in the Rhineland made upon the composer. It was sketched and instrumented between November 2 and December 9, 1850, in which year Schumann was the municipal director of music at Düsseldorf. Its first performance took place in that city, February 6, 1851.

The first movement opens without introduction, the first theme being at once given out by the violins. After short development it is heard again with increased animation, and leads up to a lively second theme in the oboes, bassoons, and clarinets. The elaboration of these two themes is long and skilful.

The Scherzo begins with a characteristic theme given out by the violas, bassoons, and cellos -- a melody which is fairly replete with good nature and old-fashioned humor. After its development a second lively theme occurs and leads up to a subject given out by the clarinets, horns, and bassoons, corresponding to the trio, and full of color. After its statement the principal theme returns and is ingeniously varied.

The Andante opens with a quiet and beautiful melody for the bassoons and clarinets. The movement is serene and sentimental throughout, and prepares the way for the succeeding Lento, the inspiration of which has been outlined by Schumann himself. It is marked "Feierlich." The composer at first superscribed the movements, "In the character of accompaniment to solemn ceremony." This ceremony was the festivity in the cathedral of Cologne consequent upon the elevation of Archbishop von Geissel to the rank of Cardinal, which he had witnessed. When the symphony was published, however, he erased the superscription, explaining his action by saying: "One must not show the people his heart. A more general impression of a work of art is better for them; then at least they will make no false comparisons." Its foundation is a broad and unmistakably ecclesiastic harmony given out in a solemn and stately manner in the trombones, and on this foundation he builds up a elaborate contrapuntal structure which retains the same ecclesiastic form, with added richness and brilliancy. The Finale is written in strict form, and introduces new and fresh themes, with the exception of the appearance of the ecclesiastical motive, of which the principal one is the most striking.

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See also:
Middle Ages Music
Renaissance Music
Baroque Era Music
Classical Era Music
Romantic Era Music
Nationalist Era Music
Turn of Century Music

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