15 May 2004

Schumann Symphonies

I've been re-listening to Robert Schumann's symphonies recently on Rhapsody.

I have the MP3s ripped from a ShoutCast feed, but for convenience I've begun using Rhapsody as my primary music source. I can use it at work (IT doesn't keep track of bandwidth comsumption) and at home and it keeps track of "my library."

As a further digression, I recently discovered Schumann's violin sonatas on Rhapsody. Very nice pieces.

The facts:

  • Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
  • Four symphonies total
  • Symphony No. 1 in B flat, "Spring", op. 38 (1841)
  • Symphony No. 4 in D minor, op. 120 (1841; revised in 1851)
  • Symphony No. 2 in C, op. 61 (1846)
  • Symphony No. 3 in E flat, "Rhenish", op. 97 (1850)

People know the "named" symphonies the best, primarily from movies or commercials. I don't think Schumann made it as much as Wagner or Liszt in Bugs Bunny cartoons.

I'm going in order (numerically) to get them in my head better. I'm stuck on the slow 3rd movement (Adagio espressivo, 10:38) of the symphony #2. A good slow movement can really suck you in as it changes moods. There's a good fugue in this one at around 5:02. A few months back, my CD of Shostakovich's 5th and 9th symphonies was in rotation in my car's 6-CD changer. The 5th has another outstanding slow 3rd movement (Largo, 15:35).

I began listening to them late last year for research for the last song of The Silent Spectrum (the CD I'm working on now). The opening measures of "The Wire" capture the minor key, romantic symphony feeling pretty well:

Compare with the MIDI from some of the Schumann symphonies. (I use Allegro, but there are free editors out there that will display the MIDI in musical staffs.)

Aothough this theme from "The Wire" is an extreme example, rock has always taken a few pointers from the romantic style. Metal uses chromatic mediants in a similar, jarring manner. The general freedom employed in key changes that many bands use could also be attributed to the romantic style. It's tough to draw such sweeping conclusions, so maybe this is a discussion for another day...

[ posted by sstrader on 15 May 2004 at 11:43:55 AM in Music ]