Robert Schumann (1810-1856) composed his “Spring” symphony – his first major orchestral work – when he was 31. He wrote it at a happy time in his life, shortly after his marriage to the former Clara Wieck, who encouraged him to pursue orchestral composition.
Schumann was initially inspired to write the symphony by a poem describing “springtime” (he initially even put names to the movements, before removing them so as not to have the work appear to be programmatic). But the “Spring” appellation stuck, and the work displays an appropriate heady optimism and beauty. Schumann sketched it in a mere four days, and it was premiered in March 1841 in Leipzig by Felix Mendelssohn.
The symphony is in four movements. The opening Andante is heralded by a horn and trumpet call (“like a summons to awakening”), which becomes the basis for the sprightly theme which follows. The second movement is a dreamy larghetto (initially titled “evening”), with a lyrical theme repeated by violins, ‘cellos, and solo oboe and horn.
A passage in the trombones serves as a bridge to the unique third movement, a fast scherzo with 2 delightful contrasting trios.
The fourth movement is based on a graceful and witty theme begun by the violins, with subtle counterthemes in the winds. An intense accelerando leads to a triumphant climax.
Symphony No. 1 in Bb Major, Op. 38, "Spring"
By Robert Schumann
Composed in 1841