MONDAY, January 27, 2020
Famous for 174 years…
The Schumann Piano Concerto in A Minor was an immediate success and has been popular every since. It was the first of three concertos written in A major or A minor by Schumann, Liszt and Grieg.
She walks out on stage and looks like Granny. But then she starts playing, and if you close your eyes you have no idea that she is old. Martha was born in 1941, so she was around 77 in this recording. Like fine wine she gets better with age. It’s a nice contrast watching he play with such young people, many of whom are young enough to be her grandchildren.
The A minor Piano Concerto, was completed in 1845 and is the composer’s only piano concerto. The complete work was premiered in Dresden on 4 December 1845. It is one of the most widely performed and recorded piano concertos for the piano.
It took a long time…
Schumann talked about his ideas with his future wife, Clara, when he was still in his teens. To get from that point to completion took almost a decade. Once again we can see how long it took for these geniuses to complete major works. The process is not usually quick.
It started out with a different name and form…
In his early 20s Schumann wrote a fantasy for piano and orchestra called Phantasie in A minor. He could not sell it to publishers. Later he revised it, but it still was not a success. Clara suggested that he expand it to a full concerto. In December of 1845 it was performed by his wife.
Then Mendelssohn conducted it…
Less than a month later on January 1st, 1846, the concerto was performed in Leipzig, conducted by Felix Mendelssohn and again with Clara performing. This is a good example of how composers supported each other.
The piece, as marked in the score, is in three movements:
- Allegro affettuoso (A minor): Fast, with tenderness
- Intermezzo: Andantino grazioso (F major): In between, somewhat slow and graciously
- Allegro vivace (A major): fast and lively
No break between movement one and two…
At the end of movement two it says: attacca subito. This means to attack suddenly. Originally there were only two movements:
- Allegro affettuoso
- Andantino and Rondo
The three movement listing is the more common form used.
Great balance between orchestra and piano…
This is what the concertos by Schumann, Liszt and Grieg have in common. In all three the orchestra and piano complement each other.
Did Grieg copy Schumann?
Many people think Grieg modeled his concerto on Schumann’s, also in A minor. Grieg’s concerto, like Schumann’s, opens with short introduction by the piano, followed by the first theme played in the orchestra. Rachmaninoff also used Grieg’s concerto as a model for his first Piano Concerto.
Schumann and Grieg are often paired…
The two concertos often have been on a single recordings, due also to the length of each. On records each concerto fitted conveniently on each side. This is how I initially heard both.