Something to listen to: Schumann – Symphony no. 1 ‘Spring’

Robert Schumann

My compositional skill says I was my generation's Mozart. My pouty lips, steel eyes, and elegant frock coat say I was my generation's Justin Bieber.

If I turn my head 90 degrees to the right from where I am typing this very sentence at this very moment, I will see a blizzard the likes of which I have never seen before.  I feel like I’m in the Siege of Leningrad, provided they had comfortable loft-style apartments with internet access and a full Netflix queue during the darkest hours of WWII (let me check WikiPedia…). No wonder, then, that I wish it were spring.

Well, it can be, at least in my ears and at least for half an hour or so.  And even if you’re not in a blizzard, you still want spring to come.  You know it.

Schumann composed the Symphony no. 1 in 1841, not too long after he married Clara.  It’s a pretty impressive symphonic debut, especially considering the fact that Schumann hadn’t really dipped his toes into orchestral writing all that much prior to it.

The recording I’ve uploaded here is quite a bit different from most performances of this piece I’m used to hearing.  Most performances tend to approach the work from the “Romantic” side, giving it the full-bore, balls-to-the-wall treatment.  This approach, of course, can work marvelously.  But I had never heard a performance with such a thoroughly “Classical” approach until this one.  This is a straight ahead, no frills interpretation, and it’s a very engaging take.  Note the tempo of the second movement in particular…true to the metronome marking, making it sound a lot more like Tschaikovsky than, say, Brahms.

Kurt Masur conducts the Boston Symphony on 20 November 2010 in Symphony Hall, Boston.  Please come back, Sun.


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