A good year for Schumann.

Wilmington NC – [Click the Listen button to hear Steven's commentary.]

It was the year 1841, and Robert Schumann was writing music for orchestra. The previous year, he wrote songs, a vast and passionate outpouring inspired by his marriage to Clara Wieck over the strong objections of her father. But in 1841, he turned from songs to symphonies, writing his first in January, followed in the spring by an Overture, Scherzo, and Finale and then in the fall by yet another symphony.

The new work was in d minor, and with it Schumann began to take the symphonic form down a new path. In the symphony as Haydn and Mozart new it, the separate movements were self-contained, sharing no themes or other material between them. In fact, the audiences typically applauded after each movement, a practice certainly frowned on in today?s reverential concert atmosphere.

Beethoven created a few cracks in the barriers between movements in a some of his symphonies, but it was Schumann?s new Romantic generation that began to run with this idea. In his new d minor symphony, Schumann introduced a musical idea at the outset that became a germ for the creation of other melodies throughout the symphony, linking the four movements into an inseparable whole.

Dissatisfied with the results, the composer withdrew the symphony after the first performance. Ten years later, he brought out a new version in which the four movements were connected by musical transitions, thus preventing the audience from applauding and emphasizing the overarching unity of his creation. In the intervening years, he had also composed two other symphonies, so this groundbreaking work which started as his second symphony comes down to us as his fourth and last work in this form.