Symphony No. 1 (Schumann)

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The Symphony No. 1 in B-flat major, Op. 38, also known as the Spring Symphony, is the first symphonic work composed by Robert Schumann. Although he had made some "symphonic attempts" in the autumn of 1840 soon after he married Clara Wieck, he did not compose his First Symphony until early 1841. Schumann sketched the symphony in four days from 23 to 26 January and completed the orchestration by 20 February. The premiere took place under the baton of Felix Mendelssohn on 31 March 1841 in Leipzig, where the symphony was warmly received. Until this symphony, Schumann was largely known for his works for the piano and for voice. Clara encouraged him to write symphonic music. The title of "Spring Symphony" was bestowed upon it, according to Clara's diary, because of the Spring poems of Adolph Boettger. However, Schumann himself said he was merely inspired by his Liebesfrühling (spring of love). The last movement of the symphony also uses the final theme of Kreisleriana, and therefore recalls the romantic and fantastic inspiration of this piano composition.

The symphony has four movements:

  1. Andante un poco maestoso – Allegro molto vivace (B flat major)
  2. Larghetto (E flat major)
  3. Scherzo: Molto vivace – Trio I: Molto piu vivace – Trio II (G minor)
  4. Allegro animato e grazioso (B flat major)

The orchestration is for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns (2 in F, E-flat, and D, 2 in B-flat), 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, triangle and strings. Schumann especially expanded the use of timpani in this revolutionary piece.[1] Schumann made some revisions until the definitive full-score of the symphony was published in 1853. The playing time of the symphony is about 29–31 minutes, depending upon the interpretation.

Selected discography[edit]

On the Saturday 4 January 2014 broadcast of BBC 3's CD Review – Building a Library, music critic Erica Jeal surveyed recordings of Symphony No 1 and recommended the 2004 recording by the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, David Zinman (conductor), as the best available choice.[2]


  1. ^ Bowles, "Timpani. pp.55–57
  2. ^ Jeal, Erica. "Building a Library: Schumann: Symphony No 1". CD Review – Building a Library. BBC Radio 3. Retrieved 12 January 2014. 

External links[edit]