SCHUMANN, R.: Piano Concerto in A Minor / Introduction and Allegro, Op. 92 and Op. 134 (Alexander Rahbari/ Andras Ligeti/ Antoni Wit/ Belgian Radio and Television Philharmonic Orchestra/ Budapest Symphony Orchestra/ Jeno Jando/ Polish National Radio Symph
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Robert Schumann (1810-1856): Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54
Introduction and Allegro appassionato, Op. 92 Introduction and Allegro, Op. 134
As a young man Schumann had diffuse interests, but inmusic his ambitions centred chiefly on the piano. Afterleaving school he had enrolled as a law student at theUniversity of Leipzig, moving the following year toHeidelberg, which seemed more to his social andmusical taste. Here he continued to try his hand as acomposer, and it was in these years that he attemptedthe composition of his first piano concertos, which werenever finished. His teacher and future reluctant fatherin-law Friedrich Wieck, however, promisedSchumann's widowed mother that her son couldbecome one of the foremost pianists of the day, if hewere to apply himself assiduously to technical practiceand to the kind of theoretical study that seemed foreignto the young man's temperament, a course of action thathe attempted to pursue, before abandoning performancefor composition.
It was only after his marriage to Clara Wieck in1840, an alliance that had been the subject of protractedlitigation on the part of her father, that he seemed tofind that degree of security and encouragement thatenabled him to tackle larger instrumental forms. Muchof his music in the 1830s had been for the piano, oftenin those smaller forms of which he was such a master.
While 1840 itself was a year of song, with manycompositions in this form, the encouragement of hiswife, by now established as a pianist, led, much to herdelight, to Schumann's first symphony, followed by hisOverture, Scherzo and Finale that he was to describelater as a symphonette. In the spring of the same year hecompleted a Fantasie in A minor for piano andorchestra, which Clara was able to play in rehearsalwith the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig in August,shortly before the birth of the first of the Schumannchildren. The Fantasie found no favour with publishers,and it was not until 1845 that Schumann added anIntermezzo and a Finale to make of it a completeconcerto, a work that Clara Schumann immediatelytook into her repertoire, playing it on New Year's Day1846 in a Gewandhaus concert.
The concerto opens with a flourish from the pianist,followed by the principal theme, entering like a lamb,but to assume greater proportions as the workprogresses. Clara Schumann perceptively remarked, ofthe first movement, that the piano part is skilfullyinterwoven with the orchestra, so that it is impossible tothink of one without the other. The Allegro affettuoso isin traditional sonata form, but handled withconsiderable freedom, particularly in the centraldevelopment. The Intermezzo must remind us ofSchumann's mastery of those shorter forms which hehad used to such effect in his earlier piano music, whilethe Finale, originally conceived as a separate ConcertoRondo, has all the excitement that we expect of avirtuoso concerto, and a clear thematic connection withthe first movement.
In 1844 the Schumanns moved from Leipzig to thecity of Dresden. Robert Schumann had sufferedintermittently from depression, accentuated by the factthat he had now become the consort of a pianist ofconsiderable fame, his own r??le a decidedly secondaryone during the concert tour of Russia that had occupiedthe earlier months of the year. Dresden, where Wagnerhad recently become conductor at the opera, was, inspite of this, relatively conservative. Here Schumannset about the task of teaching his young wifecounterpoint, while he returned to his work as acomposer with a certain renewal of energy. TheIntroduction and Allegro appassionato for piano, withorchestral accompaniment, was a product of theeventful year 1849, the period that brought a republicanuprising in Dresden, the hurried departure of Wagner,who had been involved openly with more extremefactions, and general disturbance, as the unrest wassuppressed with Prussian help. Throughout the monthsof tumult, during which the Schumanns had takenrefuge outside the city, Robert Schumann continued towrite music, completing the present work during thelater part of September, a month that brought songs andpiano pieces. The gentle Introduction to Opus 92 allowsorchestral melodies to appear through the evocativepiano arpeggios, first from the clarinet, then from theFrench horn, before the piano too assumes a melodicrole. The Allegro appassionato is dominated by theopening figure from the orchestra, but largely justifiesits descriptive title, a work for piano with orchestralaccompaniment.
For the greater part of his career Schumann hadheld no official musical position. In 1850, however, hemoved to D??sseldorf as director of music in successionto his friend from Dresden Ferdinand Hiller, who wasto take up a similar position in Cologne. Here he hopedto establish himself, but events were to bring frustrationand disappointment, with inadequacies in performanceand disagreements with musicians and administrators.
The year further affected Schumann's variable health,bringing insomnia and depression, and, in 1854, abreak-down from which he was never to recover, dyingin 1856 in a private asylum at Endenich, near Sonn.
The last of Schumann's works for piano and orchestra,the Concert-Allegro with Introduction, for piano withorchestral accompaniment, was written in 1853,intended for his wedding anniversary on 12thSeptember, but later dedicated to the young JohannesBrahms, who visited the Schumanns for the first timelater that month. This tribute to Brahms was followedby a similar homage to his friend Joachim, the brilliantyoung violinist, for whom Schumann wrote a violinFantasie and a concerto. The Introduction and Allegrois, like its predecessor, primarily a vehicle for the solopianist, with relatively light scoring for the orchestraand piano writing that never sacrifices music to merebravura.Keith Anderson