Robert Schumann

Symphony No. 2 in C major, Op. 61

    Description by Roger Dettmer

    In the autumn of 1844 Clara moved the Schumann household to Dresden, where Robert recovered enough from a terrifying attack of nerves to complete the A minor Piano Concerto for her in July 1845. Soon thereafter he began thinking about a new symphony, which eventually became the third of his four, although published as No. 2. To fight the symptoms of syphilis, he steeped himself in Bach, out of which came several contrapuntal works for organ, pedal-piano, and conventional clavier. At last, on December 12, a sudden wave of inspiration lifted him so high that he sketched the first movement of a new C major Symphony in three days, had proceeded to the finale by Christmas Day, and on December 28 completed preliminary sketches. His tinnitus worsened, however, interfering with long-term concentration until February 12, 1846, when he began to orchestrate the blueprint. Schumann completed the scoring of Symphony No. 2 only 17 days before its Leipzig premiere in November, conducted by Felix Mendelssohn, and immediately after that added three trombones to existing parts for double winds, horns, and trumpets, string choir, and timpani.

    As in the "Spring" First and D minor symphonies of 1841, he created a unifying motif, and gave this new motto theme to the brass in a deeply sonorous introduction (Sostenuto assai) to the sonata-structured opening movement. A masterful segue ushers in the craggy, edgy, Allegro ma non troppo -- "moody, capricious, refractory" music in Schumann's own words -- this, too, derived from the motto.

    The motto also underlies all three song sections of the ensuing Scherzo: Allegro vivace, which has two trio sections (as the "Spring" Symphony did): the first one charmingly bucolic, in G major; the other one lyrical, with an embedded theme based on Bach's name (B flat, A, C and B natural, which the Germans call H).

    This is followed by a tragically expressive Adagio in C minor, whose principal subject resembles the first trio sonata of Bach's Musical Offering. This is the only Adagio movement in Schumann's symphonic canon, verily a cri de coeur; he began a fugue midway but did not complete, much less develop it. The floodtide of melody swept everything before it.

    Unable to work for several weeks after completing the Adagio, a "cured" Schumann took up the finale. The principal subject of his aptly marked Allegro molto vivace quits the sickroom in order to exercise out of doors. While he borrowed its second theme from the heartsick Adagio, he expurgated all traces of melancholy. The subsequent development of both themes ends quietly in C minor, whereupon the solo oboe quotes a melodic phrase from the last song of Beethoven's To a Distant Beloved cycle (whose text begins, "Then accept these songs"). This and the original motto combine in the celebratory coda of what is surely Schumann's symphonic Mount Rainier.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Sostenuto assai - Allegro ma non troppo
    2. Scherzo. Allegro vivace - Trio 1 & 2
    3. Adagio espressivo
    4. Allegro molto vivace

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2019 Sony Classical 19075943412
    2018 Decca / Deutsche Grammophon 4798418
    2018 Audite 21450
    2018 Linn CKR 450
    2017 NEOS NEOS 21602
    2017 Naxos 8572880
    2017 Nimbus Records NI 7099
    2017 San Francisco Symphony SFS 0071
    2016 Sony Classical 88985372122
    2016 ABC Classics
    2016 ICA Classics ICAC 5139
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4795553
    2015 Opus KURA OPK 2112/13
    2015 Audite AUDITE 97706
    2015 Brilliant Classics 95020BR
    2015 Harmonia Mundi HMG 50819091
    2015 CPO CPO 7779252
    2015 Warner Classics 0825646075942
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon
    2014 Audite AUD 97678
    2014 Linn Records CKD 450
    2014 Archiv Produktion / Deutsche Grammophon
    2014 Coviello / Coviello Classics COV 91403
    2014 Decca / Deutsche Grammophon / Eloquence
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon 4792437
    2013 Warner Classics & Jazz 469846
    2013 Deutsche Grammophon
    2013 Deutsche Grammophon
    2013 Deutsche Grammophon 4791061
    2013 Exton / Octavia EXNSACD 262
    2013 Warner Classics 98320
    2013 Oehms Classics OC 090
    2012 Avie AV 2231
    2012 Melodiya MELCD 1001879
    2012 EMI Classics
    2012 ZYX CLA 101312
    2012 Naxos 8571212
    2012 MDG Gold MDG 9401745
    2011 First Hand / First Hand Records 07
    2011 ZYX / ZYX Music CLA 101202
    2011 Opus KURA 2091
    2011 Haenssler / Haenssler Classics / Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler CD 94602
    2011 Guild 2362
    2011 Warner Classics
    2011 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099909799325
    2011 Helicon Classics 029640
    2011 Col Legno WWE2CD 60021
    2011 Newton Classics 88020812
    2011 IDIS 6607
    2010 Sony Classical 8869768365
    2010 Cascavelle 3146
    2010 Haenssler / Haenssler Classic 93259
    2010 CPO 7775362
    2010 Musicaphon 56920
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 Orfeo C 717102
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099960903
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 423625
    2010 Apex
    2010 Cascavelle 3111
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 RPO 14
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 4778621
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 002894778816
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Oehms Classics 741
    2009 Deutsche Grammophon / Universal
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Oehms Classics 708
    2009 Sony Music Distribution 88697437072
    2009 Decca / Eloquence 4800078
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Doremi Records 7860
    2008 Universal Classics & Jazz
    2008 PentaTone Classics 5186326
    2008 EMI Classics
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099921531
    2008 EMI Classics 5677682
    2008 EMI Classics
    2008 EMI Classics 20954
    2008 Sony Classical 47297
    2008 Decca
    2008 Decca 4780037
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 4777932
    2008 Union Square Music 58
    2007 Warner Classics 361788
    2007 Document 223602
    2007 Arte Nova Classics 88697074322
    2007 Exton 00262
    2007 Teldec 69928
    2007 Berlin Classics 0185972
    2007 Apex
    2007 BIS 1519
    2006 Haenssler 93140
    2006 Testament 1377
    2006 Capriccio Records 49483
    2006 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 0946371497
    2006 Urania 55203
    2006 NCA 60125-315
    2005 Arte Nova 577430
    2005 EMI Music Distribution 69370
    2005 Berlin Classics 0020162
    2005 Deutsche Grammophon 000532302
    2005 Haenssler 93161
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 Warner Classics
    2005 Deutsche Grammophon 4770002
    2004 Haenssler 93141
    2004 Orfeo 627041
    2004 RCA Victor 55305
    2004 Harmonia Mundi 1951848
    2004 Warner Classics 61179
    2003 Naxos 8557235
    2003 Brilliant 99950
    2003 EMI Classics
    2003 Classico 431/2
    2002 Glissando 38
    2002 Novalis 150164
    2002 Living Stage 35159
    2002 CBC Records 5067
    2002 EMI Music Distribution 67771
    2002 Archipel 0083
    2001 Haenssler 93011
    2001 Teldec 85191
    2001 Erato
    2001 Angel Records 61884
    2001 Capriccio Records 51006
    2001 Sony Music Distribution SS89382
    2001 Philips 4685432
    2001 RCA 61820
    2000 Decca 467253
    2000 Dutton Laboratories CDK1209
    2000 RS 636772/73
    2000 CPO 999475
    1999 BIS 1055
    1999 Deutsche Grammophon 439923
    1999 Aura Classics 0107
    1999 Urania 123
    1999 Mercury 462955
    1999 EMI Music Distribution 56849
    1999 Aura Classics 0120
    1998 Deutsche Grammophon 459 070-2GCC11
    1998 Deutsche Grammophon 459049
    1998 Archiv Produktion 457591
    1998 Delta Distribution 11551
    1998 Haenssler 98190
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon 453482
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon 453049
    1997 London 452214
    1996 Harmonia Mundi 901555
    1996 Teldec 98320
    1996 Naxos 550923
    1996 Sony Classical 62349
    1995 RCA 61931
    1995 EBS 6088
    1995 Delos DE3146
    1994 Teldec 95501
    1994 BIS 361
    1994 Naxos 550471
    1994 Capriccio Records 10094
    1994 Deutsche Grammophon 437395
    1994 Decca / Universal Music Classics and Jazz
    1994 Philips 442080/81
    1993 Philips 438341
    1993 EMI Music Distribution 64815
    1993 EMI Music Distribution 54898
    1993 Sony Music Distribution SMK-47611
    1992 ASV 6084
    1992 Sony Music Distribution 48269
    1991 Koch 7039
    1991 EMI Music Distribution 67319
    1991 Telarc Distribution 80182
    1991 Teldec 46446
    1990 Deutsche Grammophon 429672
    1990 Laserlight 35830
    1989 Laserlight 15827
    1989 Laserlight 15820
    Glissando 41
    Decca 000298202
    Grammofono 2000 78646
    Unison 82822
    Nickson 1008
    Iron Needle 1327
    Capriccio Records 10997
    Berliner Philharmoniker BPHR 140011
    CBS Records 45680
    Fonit-Cetra Italia 124
    Acum 7001810
    Philips 426186
    BBC Music Magazine 278
    Deutsche Grammophon 410863
    EMI Music Distribution 636132
    High Definition Classics 072
    Carlton Classics 6601147
    Excelsior Recordings 31088
    EMI Music Distribution 6547025
    Brilliant Classics 8635/61
    Virgin Classics 791194
    Musical Heritage Society 515967
    RS 6367-72/73
    London 421439
    IMP Classics 1048
    Erato 45496
    Denon Records 33CO-1967
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    Warner Music
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