1841: Schumann: Scherzo and Finale in E major, age 31

Mr. Peabody Says:

1841 was largely about Schumann’s attempt to write a 2nd symphony. In fact, Schumann had problems with the 2nd symphony. The one we know today as the 4th was actually written right after the 1st, and the Schumann’s Scherzo and Finale, also written in 1841, almost was named as the 2nd.

Very confusing! It appears that after the 1st symphony, his 2nd attempt was much more difficult, and that started the confusion with the symphony numbers, where the 4th is really the 2nd, and the 3rd is actually the last.


  • 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons
  • 2 horns in E, 2 trumpets in E
  • timpani in E and B
  • strings

I could find no info at all about instruments and had to download the score to see that data.

Wolfgang Sawallisch

Who is J. H. Verhulst?

Schumann dedicated this composition to the Dutch violinist and conductor, J. H. Verhulst, but why? And who was he?

Mendelssohn, who was on holiday in Scheveningen, was shown an overture written by Verhulst, and took him on as a pupil; he began studying with Mendelssohn in 1838. The musical connection between Schumann and Mendelssohn, younger only by one year, went way beyond friendship. The younger prodigy had a huge musical effect on the slightly younger composer, who developed much later as a symphonist.

Written in three weeks:

The Overture, Scherzo and Finale in E major, Op. 52, was written in just three weeks in 1841. The Finale was revised in 1845, shortly before publication.

A symphony without a slow movement:

The Overture, Scherzo and Finale, Op. 52, is essentially a symphony without a slow movement; Schumann even referred to it as his “Symphony No. 2” at one time.

Trying to publish it:

There was very poor response to this composition, and in an attempt to sell it he kept changing the name.

Earlier, when Schumann offered it, unsuccessfully, to the Leipzig publisher Hofmeister, he called it a suite, pointing out that “the individual movements can be played separately.” Earlier still, he referred to the piece as a Sinfonietta. So he had at least three names in mind.

Do the movements really connect?

The answer is yes: the movements are related thematically. Schumann’s scherzo incorporates motives from the overture.And not all symphonies have that feature.

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