Thursday, December 08, 2005


Robert Schumann: Symphony No.4, D minor, Op.120

Schumann's Second Symphony, in D minor, was first written in the later months of 1841, and performed in December of that year inLeipzigc. It was not altogether to his liking, and he laid it aside until 1851, when he revised the instrumentation of it, and published it as Op.120. Consequently, it is known as No. 4, although it was the second in order of composition. He called it at first a Symphony-Fantasia, with the sub-title Symphony in One Movement---for its five tempo-Divisions are all connected without interruptions, and certain thematic factors are carried through the entire work. It is widely esteemed as his most attractive symphonic creation, and in truth nothing could be more winning and impressively beautiful than the Introduction, the Romanze, and everyone of its thematic melodies; a wonderfully alluring atmosphere envelops the whole, and the fine rhythmic pulse of the two Allegros is exhilarating. Nevertheless, this work betrays some of Schumann's undeniable shortcomings, particularly as concerns the structure and the orchestration; and the listener's impressions waver between fascination and disappointment. It is a genuine specimen of Romantic musical expression: original, intensely subjective, emotional, free---at times somewhat regardless of the regulations so essential to classic art. There is an Introduction, and the structural plan of the first Allegro is irregular, consisting as it does in a normal Exposition, a Development which trails off into a series of related Sections that "develop" nothing vital, and no Recapitulation---a jubilant Coda taking its place.

The truly lovely lyric Romanze is a Three-Part Song form with Trio, the da capo transposed and reduced to one Part only. The Second Part of the principal Division is borrowed from the Introduction, and the Trio (in D major), in which a Solo-violin gracefully embellishes the principal violin part, also contains thematic allusions to it.

A vigorous Scherzo, in usual form, follows the Romanze. The Trio contrasts most effectively with the principal Division, and is strongly reminiscent of the exquisite Trio in the preceding Movement (with the Solo-violin part). After the da capo, the Trio is restated, with ingenious dynamic alterations---its last Part "fading away," dissolving into a brief Coda, that serves to connect this Movement with the next.

The succeeding Finale begins with a transitional Interlude (or Introduction), based upon the chief thematic figure of the first Allegro. The form is sonata-allegro, slightly abbreviated. The principal Theme (or, rather, Motive only) is derived from the third Section of the Development in the first Movement. The second Codetta, related principalricipal Motive, furnishes the main contents of the Development in this Finale; the Recapitulation begins with the subordinate Theme (the principal Motive being omitted); the Coda ends brilliantly with new, though very similar motives.


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