A comparison of Robert Schumann's Fourth Symphony with its reorchestration by Gustav Mahler

Date of Completion

January 2009






The orchestration of Robert Schumann, especially that of the 1851 version of his Fourth Symphony, has been harshly criticized throughout history by critics, historians, conductors and composers. Admirers of the Fourth Symphony, such as Gustav Mahler, took matters into their own hands by reorchestrating it for their own performances. This dissertation compares Schumann's 1851 revision with Mahler's reorchestration, while also taking into account Schumann's own original 1841 version. By analyzing these different versions of the symphony and attempting to determine the rationale behind them, it is possible to gain valuable insight into the orchestrational aesthetics of Schumann and Mahler; in addition, some surprising similarities between the two composers, whom few regard as being equally skilled, emerge from the analysis. Selected examples are used to illustrate the styles of orchestration and revision of each composer, followed by a comparative analysis of the first two movements of the Fourth Symphony. The appendix includes a table of revisions organized by measure number and categorized by type, with additional commentary. ^