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1850 – Schumann Symphony No. 3 (Rhenish)


1850 Robert Schumann Symphony No. 3 ‘Rhenish’
Instrumentation Strings, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones (alto, tenor & bass), timpani
Movements I: Lebhaft (Eb) II: Scherzo: Sehr mäßig (C) III: Nicht schnell (Ab) IV: Feierlich (Ebm) V: Lebhaft (Eb)
Overview This is the last symphony that Schumann completed and like Mendelssohn’s Italian symphony it is loosely inspired by a trip away, in this case to the Rhineland. It is notably in the same key as Beethoven’s Third symphony and begins its first movement in a similar heroic vein. In general, though, this is more like Beethoven’s sixth in its succession of vaguely programmatic five movements.
A) Overall form Like Beethoven’s Sixth symphony this piece is in five movements with the fourth, which is almost like a chorale/hymn, running straight into the last. The chorale idea reappears later in the finale.
L) Dance, Folk and national styles. The second movement is an odd mix of variation and scherzo/trio but has a strong feel of a Landler – a folk dance that became very popular with composers in the nineteenth century. Landler’s were originally quite vigorous with hops and skips incorporated but they became increasingly gentle and refined. They are in 3/4 and often somewhere between a minuet and waltz in feel.