Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Schumann Encounters Berlioz: The Symphonie fantastique and Schumann's String Quartets, Op. 41




College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Robert Schumann's review "A Symphony by Berlioz" appeared in the Neue Zeitschrift fuer Musik in six installments, between July 3 and August 14, 1835. The larger part of Schumann's review is a detailed analysis of the work, and he was especially struck by the form of the first movement, noting that "despite its apparent lack of form, a symmetrical pattern governs its larger proportions." He provides a diagram of Berlioz' formal structure, and carefully notes the return of the first theme in the dominant at the center of the movement, followed by the return of the second and first themes in reverse order. Schumann then compares this to the "traditional model" of sonata form, illlustrated by means of another diagram. Schumann had written to Clara as early as 1838 (three years after his review of the Berlioz) that "I am looking forward to composing a string quartet." The envisioned quartet became, in 1842, a set of three; the first and third show clear evidence of Schumann's compositional response to Berlioz. Although the musical surface is quite removed from the music of Berlioz, in the Finale of the A minor Quartet (#1) and the first movement of the A major (#3), Schumann wrote two highly idiosyncratic sonata-form movements that introduce symmetrical elements remarkably similar to structural features of the first movement of the Symphonie fantastique. This paper compares all three movements in light of Schumann's analysis, and revisits the notion of the "reverse recapitulation."

Conference Name

Annual Meeting, Minneapolis, MN

Conference Location

Minneapolis, MN

This document is currently not available here.