Schumann wrote his SYMPHONY No.1, “SPRING”, during the happiest period of his life. After a years-long struggle with his teacher Friedrich Wieck, Clara’s father, he finally married her in September 1840. Overwhelmed by an enormous creative impulse, he wrote more than 100 songs at that time. But Clara wanted to encourage him to write symphonic music, as she notes in her diary: ‘it would be best if he composed for orchestra; his imagination cannot find enough space on the piano… All his compositions are orchestral in feeling… My greatest wish is that he should compose for orchestra – that is his field! I hope I can guide him to it!”
Schumann drafted the symphony in just four days in January 1841, completed its orchestration by 20 February and it was premiered on 31 March in Leipzig by the Gewandhaus Orchestra under Mendelssohn’s baton. The title “Spring” was inspired by Adolf Böttger’s poem “Spring Poem” (‘Frühlingspoem’). The composer originally intended to place a poetic epigraph and titles to each movement – ‘The Beginning of Spring’, ‘Evening’, ‘Merry Pastimes’ and ‘The Blossoming of Spring’ – but when the score was printed he abandoned verbal annotations. Only in a letter to the conductor Wilhelm Taubert did he write: Could you breathe a little of the longing for spring into your orchestra as they play? That was what was most in my mind when I wrote [the symphony] in January 1841. I should like the very first trumpet entrance to sound as if it came from on high, like a summons to awakening. Further on in the introduction, I would like the music to suggest the world’s turning green, perhaps with a butterfly hovering in the air, and then, in the Allegro, to show how everything to do with spring is coming alive… These, however, are ideas that came into my mind only after I had completed the piece.