Schumann – Symphony No. 3 in E flat major – Music | History
The Symphony No. 3 in E♭ major, Op. 97, also known as the Rhenish, is the last symphony composed by Robert Schumann (1810–1856), although not the last published. It was composed from 2 November to 9 December 1850, and comprises five movements:
II. Scherzo: Sehr mäßig (in C major)
III. Nicht schnell (in A♭ major)
IV. Feierlich (in E♭ minor)
The Third Symphony is scored for two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets in B♭, two bassoons, four French horns in E♭, two trumpets in E♭, three trombones, timpani and strings. It premiered on 6 February 1851 in Düsseldorf, conducted by Schumann himself, and was received with mixed reviews, “ranging from praise without qualification to bewilderment”. However, according to Peter A. Brown, members of the audience applauded between every movement, and especially at the end of the work when the orchestra joined them in congratulating Schumann by shouting “hurrah!”.
Throughout his life, Schumann explored a diversity of musical genres, including chamber, vocal, and symphonic music. Although Schumann wrote an incomplete G minor symphony as early as 1832–33 (of which the first movement was performed on two occasions to an unenthusiastic reception), he only began seriously composing for the symphonic genre after receiving his wife’s encouragement in 1839.
Schumann gained quick success as a symphonic composer following his orchestral debut with his warmly-received First Symphony, composed in 1841 and premiered in Leipzig with Felix Mendelssohn conducting. The work which was later to be published as his Fourth Symphony was also finished in 1841. In 1845 he composed his C major Symphony, which was published in 1846 as No. 2, and, in 1850, his Third Symphony. By the end of his career Schumann had composed a total of four symphonies.
The published numbering of the symphonies is not chronological because his Fourth 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.