Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/425

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.


delssohn just as little. A certain approximation to Schubert is indeed perceptible in the ' work- ing out' (Durchfuhrung} of his Allegro move- ments. But the symphonies, like the pianoforte works, the songs, and indeed all that Schumann produced, bear the strong impress of a marvel- lous originality, and a creative power all his own. Even the first published Symphony (in Bb, op. 38) shows a very distinct talent for this branch of composition. We do not know that Schumann had ever previously attempted or- chestral compositions, except in the case of the symphony written in the beginning of 1830, which still remains in MS. In 1839 he writes to Dorn : ' At present it is true that I have not had much practice in orchestral writing, but I hope to master it some day.' And in his next attempt he attained his object. In a few pas- sages in the Bb Symphony, the effects of the instruments are indeed not rightly calculated. One great error in the first movement he re- medied after the first hearing. This was in the two opening bars, from which the theme of the Allegro is afterwards generated, and which were given to the horns and trumpets. It ran origin- ally thus, in agreement with the beginning of the Allegro movement :



��J- * N J J

��which, on account of the G and A being stopped notes, had an unexpected and very comic effect. Schumann himself was much amused at the mistake ; when he was at Hanover in January 1854 he told the story to his friends, and it was very amusing to hear this man, usually so grave and silent, regardless of the presence of strangers (for the incident took place at a public restaurant), sing out the first five notes of the subject quite loud, the two next in a muffled voice, and the last again loud. He placed the phrase a third higher, as it stands in the printed score :

��Another, but less important passage for the horns has remained unaltered. In bar 17 of the first Allegro, Schumann thought that this phrase

�� �� ��rominent than it usually was on the horns, and" requested both Taubert and David, when it was in rehearsal at Berlin and Leipzig in the winter of 1842, to have it played on the trombones.

But in general we cannot but wonder at the certain mastery over his means that he shows even in the 1st Symphony. His orchestra- tion is less smooth and clear than that of either Mendelssohn or Gade, and in its sterner style reminds us rather of Schubert. But this stern power is suited to the substance of his ideas, and there is no lack of captivating beauty of

��sound. We even meet in his orchestral works with a number of new effects of sound such as only true genius can discover or invent. In- stances of these are the treatment of the three trombones in the 'Manfred' Overture, the use made of the horns in the second movement of the Eb Symphony, the violin solo introduced into the Romanza of the D minor Symphony, etc. etc. It is hard to decide which of Schumann's four symphonies (or five, counting op. 52) is the finest. Each has individual beauties of its own. In life and freshness and the feeling of inward happiness the Bb Symphony stands at the head. Schumann originally intended to call it the ' Spring Sym- phony'; and indeed he wrote it, as we learn from a letter to Taubert, in Feb. 1841, when the first breath of spring was in the air. The first movement was to have been called 'Spring's Awakening,' and the Finale (which he always wished not to be taken too fast) ' Spring's Fare- well.' Many parts of the symphony have an especial charm when we thus know the object with which they were written. The beginning of the introduction evidently represents a trum- pet-summons sent pealing down from on high ; then gentle zephyrs blow softly to and fro, and everywhere the dormant forces awake and make their way to the light (we are quoting from the composer's own programme). In the Allegro the Spring comes laughing in, in the full beauty of youth. 1 This explains and justifies the novel use of the triangle in the first movement an instrument not properly admissible in a sym- phony. An enchanting effect is produced by the Spring song at the close of the first move- ment, played as though sung with a full heart ; and it is an entirely new form of coda (see p. 67 of the score). In publishing the Symphony, Schumann omitted the explanatory titles, because he believed that the attention of the public is distracted from the main purpose of a work by things of that kind. We may well believe, more- over, that a good part of the spring-like feeling in this symphony comes from the deep and heart- felt joy which Schumann felt at being at last united to his hardly- won bride. The same in- fluence is seen in the D minor Symphony (op. 120), written in the same year with that just described, and immediately after it. It is entirely similar to its predecessor in its fundamental feeling, but has more passion. The form too is new and very successful ; the four sections follow each other consecutively without any pauses, so that the work seems to consist of only one great movement. The subjects of the Introduction re- appear in the Romanze, with different treatment, and the chief subject of the first Allegro is the foundation of that of the last. The second part of the first Allegro is in quite an unusual form, and before the last Allegro we find a slow intro- duction imaginative, majestic, and most original. As has been already mentioned, Schumann in- tended to call the work Symphonic Fantasia.'

i Schumann Intended the Pi* vivaee of the Introduction to be taken distinctly faster at once, so that the time might glide imper- ceptibly Into the Allegro.

�� �