Donald Macleod explains how a trip to the Rhineland resulted in a symphony for Schumann, which was a huge success for his Dusseldorf employers.
It was an offer Robert Schumann only wished he could have refused. But lacking other job opportunities, the composer reluctantly accepted Dusseldorf's offer of the post of Director of Music, with responsibility not only for a semi-professional orchestra, but also for a choir. All this week Donald Macleod looks at Schumann's Dusseldorf years and the creative stimulus this move provided for Schumann, his triumphs as well as his many failures. In less than five years, Robert would write some third of his entire output, composing concertos, choral works and symphonies. Despite the composer's tragic illness, he lost none of his powers of invention, and was indeed on the brink of enjoying both popular as well as critical success.
In today's episode, the relationship between the Schumanns and their employers sours slightly when Clara is expected to play the piano in a concert gratis. The couple later take a trip to Cologne, inspiring one of Robert's best-loved symphonies, the 'Rhenish'. The subsequent premiere is a triumph, to the delight of both Robert and the Board of the Dusseldorf Music Society. It is a period of almost unbelievable creativity - no fewer than eighteen very substantial compositions in one year alone. And yet there are signs that not all is well with Schumann's health. And his conducting technique leaves a great deal to be desired, even in the opinion of some of his staunchest admirers!
Märchenbilder, Op 113 (1st movt)
Adrien Boisseau, viola
Gaspard Dehaene, piano
Symphony No. 3 in E flat, Op. 97, 'Rhenish'
London Classical Players
Roger Norrington, conductor
Mädchenlieder, Op. 103
Felicity Lott, soprano
Ann Murray, mezzo
Graham Johnson, piano
Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique
John Eliot Gardiner.