Program Notes - March 16-19

Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Riccardo Muti Zell Music Director
Yo-Yo Ma Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant
Thursday, March 16, 2017, at 8:00
Saturday, March 18, 2017, at 8:00
Sunday, March 19, 2017, at 3:00
Riccardo Muti Conductor
Mitsuko Uchida Piano
Overture to La scala di seta
Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37
Allegro con brio
Rondo: Allegro
S. Adams
many words of love
World premiere. CSO commission
Commissioned in part for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra by the Louise Durham Mead Fund
Symphony No. 4 in D Minor, Op. 120
Fairly slow—Lively—
Romance: Fairly slow—
Scherzo: Lively—
These performances are made possible by the Juli Plant Grainger Fund for Artistic Excellence.
This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.
COMMENTS by Phillip Huscher
Gioachino Rossini
Born February 29, 1792; Pesaro, Italy
Died November 13, 1868; Passy, a suburb of Paris, France
Overture to La scala di seta
Time has not been kind
to Rossini. Today he is
primarily identified with a
handful of comic operas
(often dismissed as
implausible and frequently
staged as sophomoric
slapstick) and a dozen or
so overtures, the most
famous of which brings to
mind a television cowboy who rode high in the
ratings from 1949 until 1965 instead of the heroic
figure of William Tell. The opening sentence
of Philip Gossett’s article in The New Grove
Dictionary of Music and Musicians, the industry
standard, offers a healthy corrective: “No composer in the first half of the nineteenth century
enjoyed the measure of prestige, wealth, popular
acclaim, or artistic influence that belonged
to Rossini.”
Rossini was born less than three months after
the death of Mozart (“He was the wonder of my
youth,” Rossini later wrote, “the despair of my
maturity, and he is the consolation of my old age”),
was a professional contemporary of Beethoven
and Schubert (as well as the young Mendelssohn
and Berlioz), and lived into the era of Wagner
and Brahms. But he retired in 1830, at the height
of his career, leaving behind the world of opera,
where he had reigned since 1812—the year his La
pietra del paragone triumphed at La Scala, just four
months after the premiere of La scala di seta
(The silken ladder) at the Teatro San Moisè in
Venice. During the remaining four decades
of his life, he didn’t write another opera (for a
while he contemplated a treatment of Goethe’s
Faust), choosing instead to preside over his
celebrated salon (one of the most famous in all
Europe) and to putter in the kitchen (tournédos
Rossini are his most famous concoction). Only
occasionally did he put pen to manuscript paper.
L a scala di seta was one of Rossini’s earliest
successes. It is the immediate prelude to
his great heyday, when he turned out a
rapid-fire string of delectable comic works for
the stage that has rarely been matched, from The
Italian Girl in Algiers in 1813 to The Barber of
Seville in 1816 and Cenerentola the following year.
Unlike those operas, La scala di seta is a one-act
farsa comica—a light diversion based on a French
farce of the same name about a secret marriage.
(The silken ladder aids in private meetings
between husband and wife.) Like the comic farce
itself, Rossini’s overture is full of high spirits and
mischievous play, with great attention to orchestral detail. There is particularly delectable virtuosic writing for the winds, although their interplay
with the strings is no less infectious. There is even
an early version of what would soon be known
as the Rossini crescendo, in which dynamics and
instrumentation raise the music to a fever pitch. Above: Portrait of Rossini by Vincenzo Camuccini, ca. 1815. Museo Teatrale, Teatro alla Scala; Milan, Italy
May 9, 1812; Venice, Italy
one flute and one piccolo, two oboes,
two clarinets, one bassoon, two
horns, strings
6 minutes
July 29, 1945, Ravinia Festival.
Massimo Freccia conducting
December 20 and 21, 1945, Orchestra
Hall. Désiré Defauw conducting
December 5 and 6, 1978, Orchestra
Hall. Sir Georg Solti conducting
July 11, 1998, Ravinia Festival.
Christoph Eschenbach conducting
1958. Fritz Reiner conducting. RCA
1978. Sir Georg Solti conducting.
London (video)
Ludwig van Beethoven
Born December 16, 1770; Bonn, Germany
Died March 26, 1827; Vienna, Austria
Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37
We’re not certain that
Beethoven and Mozart
ever met. Their names
were mentioned in the
same breath as early as
1783, when Beethoven’s
first composition teacher,
Christian Gottlob Neefe,
wrote these words in
the earliest public notice
of his promising pupil: “This youthful genius
is deserving of help to enable him to travel.
He would surely become a second Wolfgang
Amadeus Mozart were he to continue as he
has begun.”
Neefe was suggesting that, with proper
sponsorship, his young pupil could tour the
music capitals and entertain kings with his
dazzling keyboard talent—like most musicians,
Neefe assumed that Mozart would make his
reputation as a virtuoso performer, not as a composer. Neefe didn’t live long enough to understand how limited his view was, but he did see
his prize student take the first steps to becoming
not a second Mozart, but more importantly,
the mature Beethoven.
It’s likely that these two great composers did
meet early in 1787, when the sixteen-year-old
Beethoven made his first trip from his native
Bonn to Vienna, to breathe the air of a sophisticated musical city. Beethoven stayed no more than
two weeks, and he may even have taken a few
lessons from Mozart before being suddenly called
home by the news of his mother’s failing health.
There is, however, no mention of Mozart in a
letter Beethoven wrote at the time.
When, late in 1792, Beethoven returned to
Vienna, where he would stay for the rest of his
life, it was to study with Haydn, for Mozart lay
in an unmarked grave. We can sense disappointment in the famous words Count Waldstein
inscribed in the album that served as a farewell
gift from Beethoven’s friends:
You are going to Vienna in fulfillment of
your long-frustrated wishes. The Genius of
Mozart is still mourning and weeping over
the death of her pupil. She found a refuge but
no occupation with the inexhaustible Haydn;
through him she wishes once more to form a
union with another. With the help of assiduous labor you shall receive Mozart’s spirit from
Haydn’s hands.
Beethoven arrived in Vienna in the second
week of November 1792. He quickly realized
Above: Portrait of Beethoven by Joseph Mähler, 1804–05
April 5, 1803; Vienna, Austria. The
composer as soloist
solo piano, two flutes, two oboes, two
clarinets, two bassoons, two horns,
two trumpets, timpani, strings
34 minutes
May 1, 2, and 3, 2014, Orchestra Hall.
Paul Lewis as soloist, Christoph von
Dohnányi conducting
December 16 and 17, 1910, Orchestra
Hall. Ernest Hutcheson as soloist,
Frederick Stock conducting
1959. Gary Graffman as soloist, Walter
Hendl conducting. RCA
July 2, 1937, Ravinia Festival.
José Iturbi as soloist, Ernest
MacMillan conducting
1971. Vladimir Ashkenazy as soloist,
Georg Solti. London
1983. Alfred Brendel as soloist, James
Levine conducting. Philips
July 11, 2013, Ravinia Festival.
Emanuel Ax as soloist, Christoph von
Dohnányi conducting
that Haydn had little to teach
him and took comfort in the
fact that he was welcome in the
same homes where Mozart was
once popular.
To Beethoven, Vienna was
Mozart’s city. The first music
he published there was a set
of variations for violin and
piano on “Se vuol ballare”
from Mozart’s The Marriage
of Figaro. In March 1795, he
played Mozart’s D minor piano
concerto (K. 466) at a concert
organized by the composer’s
widow Constanze. (He later
wrote cadenzas for it as well,
the only concerto by Mozart he
so honored.) And on April 2,
1800, at his historic first public
concert, Beethoven included
A view of central Vienna along Kohlmarkt Strasse, ca. 1800, showing
a symphony by Mozart on
Beethoven’s publisher Artaria on the right
the program, which also was
supposed to have introduced his
brand new piano concerto (his third) in C minor.
But in his own C minor concerto, Beethoven
For reasons that we will never know, however,
does something far more remarkable: he writes
Beethoven played one of his earlier concermusic that pays tribute to this great masterpiece
tos instead.
and, at the same time, transcends the Mozartean
This C minor piano concerto is one of a handmodel. It was conceived in a complimentary,
ful of works in which the spirits of Mozart and
rather than a competitive spirit. Mozart’s untimely
Beethoven convene. To suggest, as some writers
death spared Beethoven a head-on rivalry with
do, that Beethoven modeled his concerto after
the one composer he worshiped, leaving him to
Mozart’s own C minor piano concerto (K. 491)
make his own way in Vienna. (He hardly knew
is to confuse the deepest kind of artistic inherithat Schubert existed, even though they lived in
tance with plagiarism. The choice of key certhe same city for years; once, when asked to name
tainly can’t be taken as a homage to Mozart, for
the greatest living composer other than himself,
Beethoven seemed unable to get C minor out of
he suggested Luigi Cherubini.)
his system at the time. (Think of the Pathétique
ven nineteenth-century listeners, who
Sonata, or, a bit later, the funeral march from the
thought Mozart a lightweight and
Eroica Symphony, the Coriolan Overture, and, of
Beethoven a quarrelsome revolutionary,
course, the Fifth Symphony.)
heard the resemblance in this music—both in
Obviously, Beethoven remembered Mozart’s
C minor concerto when he was writing his own— its details as well as its spirit and sensibility.
Certainly the way the soloist continues to play
they share too many musical details for sheer
after the first-movement cadenza right up to the
coincidence. According to a popular anecdote,
final bar can be found only in K. 491 among
Beethoven and the pianist Johann Cramer were
all of Mozart’s piano concertos. Beethoven’s
walking together when they heard the finale of
opening theme, too, tosses a glance at Mozart’s.
Mozart’s concerto coming from a nearby house;
But on the big issues—how the music moves
Beethoven stopped and exclaimed: “Cramer,
forward, the way it approaches the turning points
Cramer! We shall never be able to do anything
in its progress—there is less agreement. As the
like that!”
E 4
critic Donald Tovey pointed out, Beethoven
doesn’t yet seem to have figured out what Mozart
always understood—that you shouldn’t give
too much away before the soloist enters and
the drama really begins. There are touches of
pure Beethoven, like the unannounced entry of
the timpani just after the cadenza—a complete
surprise, even though it has been thoughtfully
prepared by a main theme that imitates the
beating of a drum every time it appears.
There’s nothing Mozartean about Beethoven’s
choice of key for the central slow movement:
E major, with its key signature of four sharps, is
bold and unexpected in a concerto in C minor,
with three flats. For a moment, the first E major
chord, given to the piano alone, seems all wrong,
as if the soloist’s hands have landed in the wrong
place; at the same time, it’s fresh and irresistible.
Where Mozart generally wrote andante or adagio, Beethoven dictates largo. Deliberately paced
and magnificently expansive, this is the first
great example of a new kind of slow movement.
Throughout the rest of the nineteenth century,
composers would profit from remembering this
music, although it’s arguable that no one after
Beethoven ever thought of anything like the
lovely, fully blossomed romanticism of the duet
for flute and bassoon over plucked strings and
piano arpeggios midway through.
The way Beethoven glances over the final double bar of this movement at the opening of the
finale also is new. The two movements aren’t yet
literally connected, as they will be in later music,
but Beethoven uses all of his wit and wisdom
to carry us from one to the next. He capitalizes
on the fact that G-sharp is the same note on
the keyboard as A-flat, and he uses that note to
pivot from the remote world of E major back to
C minor. Our ears easily make the connection,
and the rondo finale races forward, full of pranks
and good humor.
Having convinced his listeners (and himself,
perhaps) that E major is no stranger to C minor,
Beethoven returns to the key of his slow movement in the middle of the finale as if it were the
most logical move of all. Beethoven recovers
C minor again, but, after a brief cadenza, he tears
off at a gallop into C major, where he has been
headed all along.
It’s not clear why this concerto, evidently
designed for Beethoven’s first Vienna concert
in April 1800, wasn’t performed that night.
Perhaps it simply wasn’t ready. The manuscript
suggests that last-minute changes were still
being made before its premiere on April 5, 1803,
when Beethoven also introduced his new Second
Symphony and the oratorio Christ on the Mount
of Olives. Even then, the music was more firmly
fixed in Beethoven’s mind than on the page. Ignaz
von Seyfried, the new conductor at the Theater
an der Wien, agreed to turn pages for Beethoven,
only to discover that it was easier said than done:
I saw almost nothing but empty leaves, at
most on one page or another a few Egyptian
hieroglyphs wholly unintelligible to me and
scribbled down to serve as clues for him. He
played nearly all of the solo part from memory since, as was so often the case, he had
not had time to put it all down on paper. He
gave me a secret glance whenever he was at
the end of one of the invisible passages, and
my scarcely concealable anxiety not to miss
the decisive moment amused him greatly,
and he heartily laughed at the jovial supper
which we ate afterwards.
Nearly a year later, Beethoven finally got
around to writing down the piano part for a performance given by his student Ferdinand Ries,
who provided his own cadenza.
The first reviewer of the Third Concerto
commented that the piece should succeed “even
in places like Leipzig, where people were accustomed to hearing the best of Mozart’s concertos.”
He continued, suggesting that this music would
always require
a capable soloist who, in addition to everything one associates with virtuosity, has
understanding in his head and a heart in
his breast—otherwise, even with the most
impressive preparation and technique, the
best things in the work will be left behind.
Those are wise words, particularly from a man
working in a field that to this day expects sound
judgments on new music heard cold. What no
critic could predict is that this concerto, rooted
in the previous century and a pioneer in its own,
would continue to speak as strongly and directly
to the centuries that followed. 5
Samuel Adams
Born December 30, 1985; San Francisco, California
many words of love
Although Samuel Adams
is already known to
Chicagoans by name
as one of the Chicago
Symphony’s Mead
many words of love is his
first work to be performed
by the Orchestra. Adams’s
music has been played
before in Orchestra Hall—the Civic Orchestra
of Chicago performed Drift and Providence in
December 2016—and in May his Light Readings,
for twenty-five singers and eight instruments,
was given its premiere on the MusicNOW
concert series here that he curates along with his
fellow Mead composer, Elizabeth Ogonek.
many words of love, which was commissioned
by the Chicago Symphony, was written largely
during two months of solid work last summer
in an unfinished shed in North Berkeley that
Adams found listed on Craigslist. It resembles
Mahler’s picturesque mountainside composing
huts only in the way that it provides uninterrupted seclusion for the rigors of composing:
“I have no view,” Adams says, “and there’s a
constant din from the construction happening
next door. But its simplicity certainly helps me
to concentrate.” Adams says he was atypically
stationary during that period, when he wrote
what he calls “the piece’s bones.” He then began
to orchestrate the score in August, at the same
time that he was finishing the first movement of
a string quartet for the Chicago-based Spektral
Quartet (there are similarities between the two
Commissioned in part for the Chicago
Symphony Orchestra by the Louise
Durham Mead Fund
pieces, Adams says, especially in the way that
he handles the color of the strings). many words
of love was completed in October, when it once
again received his undivided attention.
T he title of Adams’s new orchestral
piece is drawn from a line in Wilhelm
Müller’s poem “Der Lindenbaum” (The
linden tree), the sixth song in Schubert’s great
cycle of love and loss, Winterreise: “On its bark
I carved so many words of love; I was drawn to
it always in joy and sorrow.” The song is one of
Schubert’s best known (Hans Castorp, the protagonist of Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain,
hums it as the novel comes to a close). Although
Adams is deeply drawn to Schubert’s music in
general, his new score does not invoke the song
in any overt way. Adams’s own fascination with
“Der Lindenbaum”—and particularly with
the key phrase that hovers in the distant background of this new work—originally came from
listening to Carl Stone’s Shing Kee, a minimalist
piece from 1986 that focuses on small repeating
fragments of Schubert’s song. Today, Adams
is more interested in the image of the linden
tree as a symbol of the ailing earth, an idea
that he points out wouldn’t have occurred to
Schubert, Müller, or Mann—“artists working
long before the environmental movement and
the Anthropocene, our newly coined geological
epoch.” The musical nature of many words of love
grew out of Adams’s desire to “imagine what it
might sound like to hear ‘many words of love’
carved into the bark of a tree—a gesture both
violent and tender.”
two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets,
two bassoons, four horns, two
trumpets, two tenor trombones
and bass trombone, percussion
(vibraphones, almglocken, crotales,
large bell plate laid on flat surface,
brake drums, bass drum, resonating
snare drums with iPad, nipple gong,
sandpaper blocks), strings
20 minutes
These are the world
premiere performances.
music for a contemporary dance
company in San Francisco, and
“sketching the kernels” for a sixtyminute work for piano and live sound
design to be premiered in 2019. He
was recently awarded a Civitella
Ranieri Foundation Fellowship in
Umbria, Italy, where he will be an
artist-in-residence during the summer of 2017. Adams is in his second
season as the Chicago Symphony’s
resident composer.
A few parting words about the
Adams family. Samuel Adams is the
Adams, in a recent photo, seated outside his “composing shed”
son of the celebrated composer John
in Berkeley, California, where he wrote many words of love. Photo
Adams, whose music has frequently
courtesy of the composer
been performed by the Chicago
Adams had never heard the Chicago
Symphony in recent years (it figured prominently
Symphony Orchestra perform live when he was
in both of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s programs here
named as one of its resident composers in 2015
over the past two weeks). The seven-year-old
(when he flew to Chicago to rectify that, his
Samuel was the dedicatee of his father’s Chamber
plane was late and he walked into Orchestra Hall Symphony (his sister Emily is the four-month old
just before the third movement of Debussy’s La
baby, nicknamed “Quackie,” who appears in the
mer). But he was keenly aware of the Orchestra’s
third movement of their father’s Harmonielehre).
recordings and its reputation, and he was
John Adams and Samuel Adams are not related
humbled by the honor: “I am very young and still to the identically named cousins who were
trying to figure out so many things about music,” among the fifty-six signers of the Declaration
he told Chicago magazine at the time. In high
of Independence.
school in the Bay Area, where Adams grew up,
he played jazz bass (he won a DownBeat Award
Samuel Adams on many words of love
for Outstanding Student Performance in 2005).
He spent his undergraduate years at Stanford
lthough I began sketching many words
University, where he studied composition and
of love in the spring of 2016, the piece
electro-acoustic music along with computer
really is the culminating statement in
science and Japanese. After he received a master’s a three-year project exploring the intersection
degree in composition from Yale University, he
between naturally occurring acoustic resonance
moved to New York City in 2010, where he lived and digitally produced artificial resonance. Like
until 2014, when he returned to the Bay Area.
with earlier works in this body, many words of love
For a young composer with little more than a
incorporates subtle “out of tune” digital resonance
dozen pieces in his catalog, Adams has already
that, coupled with the sound of acoustic instruworked with many important artists and ensemments, reveals beautifully elusive sonic artifacts.
bles. He has written for the St. Lawrence String
The work is in three parts (fast—slow—fast).
Quartet, the San Francisco Symphony, and
The music is dynamic and pushes certain physical
Emanuel Ax. Michael Tilson Thomas premiered
thresholds. Pitches distort, gestures sink below
Drift and Providence in Miami with the New
audibility, and forms repeat and inflate to points
World Symphony and later played it in Carnegie
of collapse.
Hall with the San Francisco Symphony. Violinist
The harmony is loosely based on “Der
Jennifer Koh picked Adams as one of the comLindenbaum” from Schubert’s mysterious and
posers she commissioned for her project of short
beautiful Winterreise (D. 911), with a particular
focus on the unstable musical fragment found
virtuosic violin works—a response to Paganini’s
with the words “so manches liebe Wort.” celebrated caprices. Adams is currently writing
A 7
Robert Schumann
Born June 8, 1810; Zwickau, Saxony, Germany
Died July 29, 1856; Endenich, near Bonn, Germany
Symphony No. 4 in D Minor, Op. 120
After the surprising
success of his First
Symphony, composed
and premiered within the
span of just two months
early in 1841, Schumann
wasted no time in
pursuing his newfound
enthusiasm, promising to
make 1841 a year devoted
to orchestral music, just as 1840 had been his
year of song. A sinfonietta (later published as the
Overture, Scherzo, and Finale) and a fantasy for
piano and orchestra (eventually serving as the
first movement of the Piano Concerto) were
sketched almost immediately, followed in May
by this D minor symphony. “Sometimes I hear
D minor strains resounding wildly from the
distance,” Clara wrote in her diary that month
of her husband’s exciting progress. The new
symphony occupied Schumann throughout the
summer, and it was ready to be introduced in
early December, rounding out the most ambitious year of Schumann’s career—the one in
which he staked out new territory and asserted
himself as a member of the great symphonic
tradition of Beethoven and Schubert.
But for Schumann, the excitement with
which 1841 began was spoiled by the lukewarm
reception given the D minor symphony on
December 6 in Leipzig. He quickly gave up on
a new symphony in C minor that was already
in progress, put the D minor symphony back
on the shelf, and began the next year looking
in a different direction. (By June he had a
new preoccupation, and 1843 became a year
of chamber music.) It was another two years
before he returned to orchestral music, and his
remaining two symphonies were published as
his Second and Third, as if to deny the existence
of the failed one in D minor. Finally, in 1851,
Schumann returned to the D minor symphony, a
full decade after its Leipzig premiere; revised its
orchestration; reworked two significant transition
passages; and introduced it for a second time,
now as his Fourth Symphony. This time it was
a success. (This is the version that is regularly
performed today, although Brahms, who found it
“over-dressed,” always preferred the simpler, less
heavily orchestrated original.)
Of all the projects Schumann undertook
in 1841, the D minor symphony is the most
radical (which may explain why the public didn’t
take to it immediately). It isn’t the quantity of
Schumann’s orchestral writing that distinguishes
his output in 1841—even though he boasted in
July that “the main thing is production itself ”—
but his courageous insistence on exploring this
new medium from various angles. In just nine
months, he composed a large-scale symphony
Above: Daguerreotype of Schumann, ca. 1850
May 29–September 9, 1841; revised
December 1851
28 minutes
December 6, 1841; Leipzig, Germany
February 5 and 6, 1892,
Auditorium Theatre. Theodore
Thomas conducting
December 30, 1852; Düsseldorf,
Germany (revised)
two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets,
two bassoons, four horns, two
trumpets, three trombones,
timpani, strings
July 19, 1936, Ravinia Festival. Willem
van Hoogstraten conducting
July 14, 1996, Ravinia Festival.
Christoph Eschenbach conducting
April 10, 11, and 12, 2003, Orchestra
Hall. Roberto Abbado conducting
1941. Frederick Stock conducting.
1975. Daniel Barenboim conducting.
Deutsche Grammophon
in the grand Beethoven tradition; a smaller
sinfonietta; a concerto-like fantasy for piano and
orchestra; and finally, in this D minor work,
a symphony that moves beyond the classical
model—a serious rethinking of the genre. When
Schumann set out to revise the score ten years
later, he couldn’t even decide whether to call it a
symphony or a fantasy, and the title page bears
the compromise “symphonic fantasy” that he
settled on until the piece was published simply
as his Fourth Symphony. (Years earlier he had
warned that “nothing arouses disagreement and
opposition so quickly as a new form bearing an
old name.”)
The idea of writing a different kind of symphony was clearly on Schumann’s mind when
he made his first sketches in 1841. Only days
after he began, Clara’s diary mentions “a new
symphony which will consist of one movement
yet contain an adagio and finale.” (“I have
heard none of it, but I see Robert’s enthusiasm,” she noted.) Schumann had long admired
the continuous, multi-chaptered structure of
Schubert’s Wanderer Fantasy for piano, and he
was impressed with the way Mendelssohn’s
Lobgesang Symphony linked its movements with
transitional passages. But Schumann’s D minor
symphony is the first important orchestral work
to incorporate these ideas, not only connecting
its movements, but also unifying the whole with
recurring themes. Schumann’s symphony is a
landmark both in structural cohesion and in
thematic transformation.
A lthough Schumann had praised the
way Berlioz’s “persistent, tormenting”
idée fixe runs throughout the Symphonie
fantastique, he accomplishes something more
impressive and subtle in his D minor symphony.
He begins with a pensive, slowly unfolding theme
that will develop and change, chameleon-like,
depending on its surroundings. It first blossoms
© 2017 Chicago Symphony Orchestra
into the lively melody that dominates the first
movement. A related major-key version is the
“second” theme, and in the development section
it grows into a march. The process is one of evolution, organic and natural. Instead of Berlioz’s
game of a single theme in various disguises,
Schumann weaves a drama of transformation
so complete that we can’t distinguish between
old and new. At the moment when sonata form
demands something reassuringly familiar (the
return of the first theme), Schumann confounds
us with a tender, radiant theme that is, in fact,
new. (It fits nicely with the main theme, however,
and in the original version Schumann played
them together in counterpoint, as if to prove how
tightly unified the score is.) The entire movement continually admits fresh air into a tradition-bound form.
The two inner movements are character pieces.
The first is a lovely romance—an old-fashioned
serenade, really (and in the original version,
it was accompanied by a guitar—sixty-some
years before Mahler put a guitar in his Seventh
Symphony). The symphony’s somber opening
makes an appearance, decorated by a solo violin.
Next comes a rather stern scherzo (the theme is
a relative of the opening material, turned upside
down), with a charming, relaxed trio. The transition to the last movement grows imperceptibly
out of the scherzo, reinventing the symphony’s
opening in the process. Schumann’s finale takes
up the march theme from the first movement
and makes it the subject of an exuberant victory
music. With the coda, which bumps up the
tempo twice, Schumann’s most troubled symphony achieves an unequivocal happy ending. Phillip Huscher has been the program annotator for the
Chicago Symphony Orchestra since 1987.