1850: Schumann: Symphony No. 3 in Eb minor (Rhenish) (#4), age 40

Mr. Peabody Says:

Schumann was a wizard with horn. Just check HERE, and you will never EVER find better writing for horn. So I have to go with Sawallisch all the way for excitement, drama, fire and contrast. His slower movements are slower. Now, which movement do you start with? In this case, any of them. They are all just fantastic.

Sergiu Celibidache/Munich Philharmonic Orchestra (live 1988)

  1. Lebhaft (in Eb major) 10:46 (0:00-10:46)
  2. Scherzo: Sehr mäßig (in C major- A minor – C major) 8:20 (11:00-18:20)
  3. Nicht schnell (in Ab major) 7:22 (18:36-25:58)
  4. Feierlich (in Eb minor) 8:10 (26:08-34:18)
  5. Lebhaft (in Eb major) 6:28 (34:30-40:58)

Total time: 41:06

Wolfgang Sawallisch

  1. Lebhaft 8:53 (0:10-9:03)
  2. Scherzo: Sehr mäßig (in C major- A minor – C major 6:42 (9:03-15:45)
  3. Nicht schnell (in Ab major) 5:25 (15:45-21:10)
  4. Feierlich (in Eb minor) 6:52 (21:10-28:02)
  5. Lebhaft 5:28 (28:02-33:30)

Total time: 33:20

Yannick Nézet-Séguin

Total time: 31:18

This is the last symphony:

The Symphony No. 3 in E♭ major, Op. 97, also known as the Rhenish, is the last symphony composed by Robert Schumann, although not the last published. It was premiered on 6 February 1851 in Düsseldorf, conducted by Schumann himself. There were were mixed reviews, but members of the audience applauded between every movement, and at the end of the work the orchestra joined them in congratulating Schumann by shouting “hurrah!”.

The published numbering of the symphonies is not chronological because his 2nd symphony of 1841 was not well received at its Leipzig premiere; Schumann withdrew the score and revised it ten years later in Düsseldorf. This final version was published in 1851 after the “Rhenish” Symphony was published, and it wrongly received the number “Four”.

Clara supported him:

Schumann he only began seriously composing for the symphonic genre after receiving his wife’s encouragement in 1839, shortly after they got married.

In the Rhineland with his wife Clara:

Schumann was inspired to write the symphony after a trip to the Rhineland with his wife Clara. This journey was a happy and peaceful trip. pilgrimage. He incorporated elements of the journey and portrayed other experiences from his life in the music.


  • two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets in Bb, two bassoons
  • four French horns in Eb, two trumpets in Eb, three trombones
  • timpani
  • strings

1st movement:

The first movement, “Lebhaft” (lively), follows the 19th-century model of a large-scale sonata form. The symphony begins immediately with a heroic theme in Eb major, scored for full orchestra. This movement has an especially rich development section, where he does not go near the key of Eb until the recap, and this is very much like Beethoven’s Eroica, so he definitely had that symphony in mind, and you can hear it.

2nd movement:

The second movement, “Sehr mäßig” (very moderate), is in C major and takes the place of a Scherzo, but it’s a slow one, perhaps closer to a minuet in tempo because it is a Ländler, also in 3/4 time. So it is more charming and relaxed than driven. In other words, this is NOT a scherzo. But in those days no one wrote: “Ländler”. Yet that is very obviously what it is, and the Ländler was the forerunner of the waltz. The second theme with the “trio” feeling is in A minor, played by the winds.

3rd movement:

The third movement, “Nicht schnell” (not fast), is in the IV chord area of Ab major. The omission of timpani and brass in combination with the static harmony (the movement never strays far or for long from Ab), creates a moment of calm repose in the middle of the symphony.

4th movement:

“Feierlich” (solemn) is meant to suggest a “solemn ceremony”, because an archbishop was made cardinal in the Cologne Cathedral. But you have to be very careful here, because there is something terrible serious about this movement. To me it sounds more like a funeral because it is in Eb minor, and since we know that Schumann struggled with depression, even earlier in his life, something else is going on here – something more personal.

5th Movement:

In the fifth movement, the piece returns to Eb major, and it’s like the sun coming out on a glorious day after something very serious or dark happened. (I still think Schumann was writing about something much sadder and more serious than an archbishop getting a religious promotion. This move from something so tragic to pure joy is a personal and artistic statement that we can all hear. Schumann originally called this movement “Morning on the Rhine”, but he feared that would limit the imagination of the listener.

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