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Schumann's Fourth Symphony in D Minor

Classical Academy | Composers | Orchestral Music

In 1841 Robert Schumann's Fourth Symphony in D Minor premiered in Leipzig - but did you know that's not the version we love today? Schumann quickly produced the symphony and presented it to his beloved Clara on her birthday. Sadly, a superstar duet performed by Clara and Franz Liszt on the piano during that performance overshadowed the work and he put it aside.


In 1851, a full decade later, Schumann felt the impetus to return to the work as his final orchestral foray. Classical music lovers everywhere should be delighted he did so - it is one of the most innovative and influential of all his works for its extraordinary structure in which all four movements are thoroughly integrated.


As ever with these complicated situations, however, there remains considerable debate about the preferred version. Clara always insisted that the 1841 version was a sketch and that the 1851 version contained the full and proper orchestration. On the other side of the field Johannes Brahms greatly preferred the earlier version, which did in actual fact include full orchestration, and he published that in 1891. The earlier version is lighter and more transparent in texture while the latter is heavier and more stately. Listen for yourself and play a little game -  can you tell which version this recording features...?


If you're interested in the talented Clara Schumann you can read more about her in our feature article, or you can discover more about her fellow pianist at that wonderful concert Franz Liszt and his stunning performances that generated Lisztomania.