Symphony No. 2 (Schumann)
The Symphony in C major by German composer Robert Schumann was published in 1847 as his Symphony No. 2, Op. 61, although it was the third symphony he had completed, counting the B-flat major symphony published as No. 1 in 1841, and the original version of his D minor symphony of 1841 (later revised and published as No. 4).
The symphony was sketched in 1845, but his depression and poor health prevented him finishing the work until October 1846. In the face of this adversity the uplifting tone of the symphony is remarkable (the work can be seen as a Beethovenian triumph over fate/pessimism). It is written in the traditional four-movement form, and as often in the nineteenth century the Scherzo precedes the Adagio. All four movements are in C major, except the first part of the slow movement (in C minor); the work is thus homotonal:
- Sostenuto assai — Allegro, ma non troppo
- Scherzo: Allegro vivace
- Adagio espressivo
- Allegro molto vivace
The first movement begins with a slow Introduction brass chorale, elements of which recur through the piece. (Schumann wrote the Six organ Fugues on B-A-C-H, Op. 60, at about this time, and this preoccupation with Bach suggests a chorale prelude, a quintessential Bachian genre, in the texture and feeling of the symphony's opening.) The following Sonata-Allegro is dramatic and turbulent. It is characterized by sharp rhythmic formulae (double-dotted rhythms) and by the masterly transformation of the material of the Introduction. The second movement is a scherzo in C major with two trios, whose main portion strongly emphasizes the diminished chord - its characteristic gesture being a rapid and playful resolution of this chord over unstable harmony. The Adagio espressivo is a sonata movement in C minor, with the character of an elegy, its middle section strongly contrapuntal in texture. The finale is in a very freely treated sonata form, its second theme related to the opening theme of the Adagio. Later in the movement, a new theme appears: this theme has, as its sources of inspiration, the last song from Beethoven's cycle "An die ferne Geliebte" (cf. also Schumann's piano Fantasy in C, Op. 17), as well as Beethoven's "Ode to Joy." The coda of the Finale recalls the material from the Introduction, thereby thematically spanning the entire work.
A typical performance lasts between 35 and 40 minutes. It is scored for an orchestra consisting of two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets (in B), two bassoons, two French horns (in C), two trumpets (in C), three trombones (alto, tenor, and bass), tympani, and strings.
- Program notes from a Richmond Symphony concert
- Program notes from a Filarmonica della Scala concert (it)
- Symphony No. 2: Free scores at the International Music Score Library Project
- Listings of live performances from Bachtrack
- Autograph manuscript in composer's hand at The Juilliard Manuscript Collection