The Orchestra of Schumann and its Modifications in the Cello Concerto op. 129




Robert Schumann symphonic works, orchestration, Cello Concerto op. 129, Piano Concerto op. 54, timbral dramaturgy, tutti, solo


Subject of the study and relevance. Musicologists rarely pay attention to Schumann’s Cello Concerto op. 129. Only a few recently published studies of the Concerto reveal the history of its creation, sources of motives, and structural peculiarities. However, there is no analysis of the orchestra and the orchestration specific features of the Concerto until nowadays.

Aims of the paper. To clarify the features of the orchestra of Schumann and to consider the particularities of its use in the Cello Concerto.

Methodology. The review of the literature allows us to focus on aspects that need further examination. The historical approach reveals the context of the writing of the Cello Concerto. The comparative method makes it possible to compare Schumann’s Piano and Cello Concertos. Score analysis discloses special techniques and particular features of orchestration in order to embody musical images in the orchestra.

Discussion. The attitude to Schumann’s orchestration as a colorless and a heavy one because of permanent exact duplications has been widely spread among the researchers. This cliché does not take into account that Schumann’s reliance on timbre mixed colours (thanks to exact duplications) is often combined with careful detailing. The delicate variation of some lines in the orchestra looks even more paradoxical because the eye frequently notices them while the ear does not. The genre of the concerto sets specific challenges for the composer that results in the “experimental” orchestration of the piano Concerto (op. 54) with its “in-the-orchestra soloists”, number of alternations, and re-orchestration of music material as an important method of the development. Obviously, it was Schumann’s “favorite” piano choice as the soloist that has promoted this new approach to orchestration in his Piano Concerto. Its orchestration should be treated as unprecedented in Schumann’s musical career.

The comparison of the Cello and Piano Concertos demonstrates Schumann’s continuity in particular approaches to the figurative volume, structural modifications, and different ways to present musical material in the orchestra. Both Concertos have the in-the-orchestra soloists: the oboe, the clarinet, and the woodwind section in the first work and the woodwinds section and the French horn in the second one. The inclusion of this soloistic group on the edge of the form’s sections, at the climax, and in the conjunctions among the movements specify its form-defying, semantic, and dramaturgical functions in the Cello Concerto. The refuse of double exposition and the allocation of soloistic groups enhance a new level of interaction between the instruments in the orchestra, between the cello solo and the orchestra as well as reflect a lyrical psychological Schumann’s concept of the instrumental concerto. Thus, orchestration of the Concerto undoubtedly reflects the individual (the author’s) world outlook.

Conclusions. Numerous changes in the density of the orchestral textures, the appearance of the soloistic instrumental group, and the different functions of tutti demonstrate deep changes in the composer’s approach to the orchestra. These features clearly reflect a new role of the orchestra in the instrumental concerto. Therefore, certain clichés towards Schumann’s ability to orchestrate need to be reconsidered undoubtedly. Now it is high time for this.

Author Biography

Vadym Rakochi, Lviv Lysenko national music academy

PhD of Art Criticism, Postdoctoral researcher at the Lviv Lysenko national music academy, History of music department; Lecturer at the Cycle Commission “Musicaltheoretical disciplines”at R. Glier Kyiv Municipal Academy of Music


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Genre and stylistic processes in the musical culture of the past and the present