Sketches from Michele Trenti's essays

On Orchestration Criticism

Appunti di Michele Trenti

The discourse on the lack of effectiveness of Schumann orchestration is often repeated among musician musicology; the same is true for Chopin’s concertos. In fact, all attempts to "correct" the instrumental form of symphonic works, even by experienced composers, have never led to results better than the original. In Schumann’s case, we have as an example Mahler's work, regarded as a case emblematic of skill in an orchestra’s treatment. Yet Mahler’s actions are reduced to a few details, which change effective practicality more that the sound (except in the third symphony), with solutions that today are no longer absolutely necessary, given the technical and musical level of orchestras. While in cases where Mahler actions made changes to the sound, they do so according to a personal conception that moves away from Schumann’s poetic world. If anything, it must be noted that in several cases it is the same texture as Schumann’s writing, i.e., the essence of his musical ideas is not so easily malleable in orchestral terms, and is reduced by an orchestra to that essence with difficulty. Finally, it is curious to note how the major "problems" attributed to Schumann instrumentation are found in the second and third symphonies, while in the first and fourth, composed chronologically first, these problems are practically absent.