Schuman’s Symphony for Strings was the fifth he composed. It was written for the Koussevitzky Music Foundation, the foundation made as a memorial to Mme. Natalie Koussevitzky. Its first performance was by the Boston Symphony Orchestra on November 12, 1943.
The first movement, Molto agitato ed energico, opens with a brilliant and incisive theme set forth by the violins in unison on the G strings, fortissimo. The theme, together with a second one of less prominence, is developed in a variety of harmonic and rhythmic patterns, while the vigor of the movement is maintained to the end. The second movement, Larghissimo, begins with broad chords, but in these and the melody which follows, the strings are muted. As this melody is brought to a climax with an accompanying figuration in sixteenths, the mutes are momentarily removed. The close reverts to the first part and subsides to pianissimo. The third movement is a Presto leggiero. The form is in the manner of a rondo, with the theme varied at each appearance. It first develops with short or pizzicato notes, but in its course becomes sustained and melodic, rising at last to brilliance, while the tempo is not relaxed.