21-22 YSOPB Final SINGLES - Flipbook - Page 35
Symphony No. 1 in B-flat major, Op. 38 (1841)
Schumann’s First Symphony appeared in a whirlwind—he completed a
draft within four days (January 23-26) — then finished orchestrating it in
late February. Conducted by Mendelssohn, it was premiered at the Leipzig
Gewandhaus on March 31, The symphony was reportedly inspired by an
unpublished “spring” poem by German poet Adolph Böttger:
Originally, each of the four movements had its own title, “The Beginning
of Spring,” “Evening,” “Merry Playmates,” and “Spring in Full Bloom,” but
Schumann withdrew the titles before publication. The first movement
begins dramatically with a fanfare, and a slow introduction underscores
the heaviness expressed at the start of the poem. The mood is definitely
lightened, however, with the arrival of the first theme, a bright, energetic
blossoming of excitement. Fanfare figures propel the music forward, with
occasional smoother contrasting moments, finally arriving at a monumental
climax that harkens back to the beginning. The recapitulation revisits the
musical materials, settling on a final extended section of the smoother,
calmer music. In the end, however, the celebration of the arrival of Spring is
confirmed with the return of the energetic fanfares to close the movement.
Featuring the strings and winds, the second movement begins with a
lovely, lush melody befitting the “Evening” inspiration. There are occasional
ebbs and flows. The mood set at the beginning is consistent throughout,
reminiscent of a pleasant spring evening, with a gradual descent into night.
The third movement has a rollicking mood. The contrasts presented by
the trio sections are surprising, and the use of brass highlight the merrymaking mood. A brief moment of rest and reflection brings this movement
to a surprising close.
CLASSICAL SERIES: MR. & MRS. SCHUMANN
Loud-Spirit, dreary and heavy, you fly with menace over land and sea
Your grey veil covers Heaven’s clear eye,
Your waves of mist rise from afar and night conceals the Star of Love:
Cloud-Spirit, dreary and moist, why did you dispel all my happiness,
Why do you bring tears to my face and shadows into the light of my soul?
Oh change, change thy course—In the valley, spring blooms forth!
The fourth movement returns to the bright energy of the first movement,
once again inspired by the energy and optimism of Spring. The celebration
moves forward with a sense of gathering all the musical materials and
energy together—the fanfares, lyrical melodies, celebratory figures, and
finally a sense of completion—confirming that Spring is in full bloom.
This symphony can also be seen as a metaphor for Schumann’s life at the
time—his personal life and work were blossoming thanks to his growing
love of Clara and the energy that came from her encouragement.