Dec. 14th, 2013

nnozomi: (nodamecello)
I don't know why so many people are anti-Schumann--the symphonies, that is, most people seem to approve of the piano music. As an instrumentalist, okay, I can kind of see it--the man was a pianist, and he doesn't seem to have taken much in the way of advice about writing for other people's instruments. (Is there historical background for this? Must ask musicologist friend, though it's not really her period.) So the lines don't always sit comfortably on the instruments you're supposed to play them on (even so he's NO WORSE THAN Rachmaninoff, spare me).

But the music is so, so awesome. I've played the Third and Fourth symphonies and am waiting hopefully--with my neck stretched out, as we say in Japanese--for a chance to do the First and Second too. The Schumann symphonies are very melodic--not so much in the sense of big hummable melodies, but there's always melodic movement going on and it's always interesting, and the orchestration (while not necessarily considerate of the orchestra, as I mentioned) is fun, with the oboe solos in the First Symphony, the horns rocking the house at the end of the Third, the violin solo in the slow movement of the Fourth (I have a soft spot for that one because my secret-pointless-crush M was concertmaster when we did it), and so on.

It's funny--it doesn't fit with my image of Schumann-the-man at all, but there's something almost...conversational? about the tone of the music. I am a die-hard Brahms-lover, you can't beat Brahms for me with much of anything, but one of the differences for me between Schumann and Brahms is the sense of...the numinous, I guess, in the latter. I cannot listen to the second movement of Brahms Two without believing in some kind of God. Or the slow movement of the First Piano Concerto with the piano chords moving transcendentally over that long, long pedal tone, Jesus Christ, no pun intended. The Schumann symphonies feel much more on an earthly plane. Not a value judgment, just a difference in sensation, if you will.

Although there's always the fourth movement of the (five-movement) Third Symphony, with its dreamy baroque fugality and killer high trombone part. I always think of it as if it were a painting with a caption: "The people grieve as Bach ascends into heaven." But then you snap back into the cheerful allegro of the last movement... I don't know. Down-to-earth, conversational, often happy, but in jewel tones, not primary colors--darker, richer strains underpinning the whole thing, never just light-hearted. Life is more like the Schumann symphonies than like most composers, I think. (God forbid one should have a life like a Rachmaninoff symphony, oy gevalt. A life like the Musical Offering, say, that I could dig.)


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