Symphony No. 3 in E flat Op. 97 Rhenish (1850)
Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
- Scherzo: Sehr mäßig
- Nicht schnell
After living in Saxony for the first forty years of his life, in 1850 Schumann accepted the post of Music Director at Düsseldorf on the banks of the river Rhine. The exuberant welcome from the locals in September inspired Schumann to one of his most productive and optimistic periods. After dashing off his Cello Concerto in only 15 days and conducting the first of 10 subscription concerts, he wrote his cheerful third and last (the 4th preceded it) symphony in only five weeks, completing it in December. Unfortunately, this happy period was not to last. Unequal to the demands of the post, Schumann was asked to resign in October 1852, but struggled on for another year, until, in 1854, he threw himself into the Rhine. Although rescued, Schumann spent his last two and a half years in an asylum.
Rhenish refers to the “Rhineland”, and the generally sunny mood of Schumann’s final symphony reflects his initial happiness in his new environment. In five movements (like Beethoven’s Pastoral), the work opens with a movement dominated by a lively theme accentuated by cross rhythms. The following Scherzo is a relaxed country dance, originally titled by Schumann Morning on the Rhine. The lyrical intermezzo that follows is led by the winds and horns over accompanying strings.
When the Schumanns visited Cologne towards the end of 1850, Robert was overawed by the cathedral, recently completed after 600 years. The fourth movement, based on a solemn trombone chorale, is a tribute to this massive structure and all it represents. The final movement opens with a simple cheerful melody. As the orchestration gradually thickens, the movement’s role as an extension of the “cathedral” music becomes more apparent, until a thrilling coda brings the symphony to an exhilarating close.
Performed: June 2017