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ClassicsOnline Home » SCHUMANN, R.: Piano Concerto in A Minor / Introduction and Allegro appassionato (Costa, Gulbenkian Orchestra, Gunzenhauser)
Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Piano Concerto in A minor, Opus 54
As a young man Schumann had diffuse interests, but in music his
ambitions centred chiefly on the piano. His teacher and future reluctant
father-in-law Friedrich Wieck promised Schumann's widowed mother that her son
could become one of the foremost pianists of the day, if he were to apply
himself assiduously to technical practice and to the kind of theoretical study
that seemed foreign to the young man's temperament.
After leaving school Schumann enrolled as a law student at the
University of Leipzig, moving the following year to Heidelberg, which seemed
more to his social and musical taste. Here he continued to try his hand as a
composer, and it was in these years that he attempted the composition of his
first piano concertos, which were never finished.
It was only after his marriage to Clara Wieck in 1840, an alliance that
had been the subject of protracted litigation on the part of her father,
Schumann's former teacher, that the composer seemed to find that degree of
security and encouragement that enabled him to tackle large instrumental forms.
Much of his music in the 1830s had been for the piano, often in those smaller
forms of which he was such a master. The year 1840 itself was the year of song,
of Myrthen, of Dichterliebe and so much else.
In 1841, much to his wife's delight, Schumann completed his first
symphony, following this with the Overture, Scherzo and Finale that he was to
describe later as a symphonette. In the spring of the same year he completed a Fantasie in A minor for the piano and
orchestra, which Clara was able to play in rehearsal with the Gewandhaus
Orchestra in Leipzig in August, shortly before the birth of the first of the
The Fantasie found no
favour with publishers, and it was not until 1845 that Schumann added an
Intermezzo and a Finale to make of it a complete concerto, a work that Clara
Schumann immediately took into her repertoire, playing it on New Year's Day
1846 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
work progresses. Clara Schumann perceptively remarked, of the first movement,
that the piano part is skilfully interwoven with the orchestra, so that it is
impossible to think of one without the other. The Allegro affettuoso is in
traditional sonata form, but handled with considerable freedom, particularly in
the central development.
The Intermezzo must remind us of Schumann's mastery of those shorter
forms which he had used to such effect in his earlier piano music, while the
finale, originally conceived as a separate Concerto Rondo, has all the
excitement that we expect of a virtuoso concerto, and a clear thematic
connection with the first movement.
Introduction and Allegro appassionato, Opus 92
The Introduction and Allegro appassionato for piano, with orchestral
accompaniment, was a product of the eventful year 1849, the period that brought
a republican uprising in Dresden, the hurried departure of Wagner, who had been
involved openly with more extreme factions, and general disturbance, as the
unrest was suppressed with Prussian help. Throughout the months of tumult,
during which the Schumanns had taken refuge outside the city, Robert Schumann
continued to write music, completing the present work during the later part of
September, a month that brought songs and piano pieces.
The gentle Introduction to Opus 92 allows orchestral melodies to appear
through the evocative piano arpeggios, first from the clarinet, then from the
French horn, before the piano too assumes a melodic role. The Allegro
appassionato is dominated by the opening figure from the orchestra, but largely
justifies its descriptive title, a work for piano with orchestral
Introduction and Allegro, Opus 134
The year brought an increase in Schumann's variable health, insomnia
and depression, and, in 1854, a break-down from which he was never to recover,
dying in 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 with orchestral accompaniment, was
written in 1853, intended for the wedding anniversary of September 12, but
later dedicated to the young Johannes Brahms, who visited the Schumanns for the
first time later that month. This tribute to Brahms was followed by a similar
homage to his friend Joachim, the brilliant young violinist, for whom Schumann wrote
a violin Fantasie and a concerto.
The Introduction and Allegro is, like its predecessor, primarily a
vehicle for the solo pianist, with relatively light scoring for the orchestra
and piano writing that never sacrifices music to mere bravura.
The Portuguese pianist Sequeira Costa has received international
acclaim for concert appearances throughout Europe, Africa. Asia, Russia, South
America, the Far East and mainland China as well as the United States, and is
currently the Cordelia Brown Murphy Distinguished Professor of Piano on the
faculty of the School of Fine Arts at the University of Kansas in Lawrence,
Kansas. Sequeira Costa studied in Lisbon with Vianna da Motta. and later, with
Jacques Fevrier and Marguerite Long in Paris, and Edwin Fischer in Lucerne. His
many major awards have included the Grand Prix at the Marguerite Long-Jacques
Thibaud Piano Competition, and the Beethoven Medal in London from Harriet
Cohen. A member of the jury of the first Tchaikovsky International Piano
Competition in Moscow. a juror's post he still holds, Costa also founded the
Vianna da Motta Competition in Lisbon.
Costa has appeared in concerts with the Moscow and Leningrad
Philharmonic orchestras, and has performed as a soloist at music festivals in
Iran, France, Yugoslavia and at the Bath Festival. During the 1979-80 season,
he gave his debut concert at New York's Alice Tully Hall. In the summer of
1980, he was invited to tour as piano soloist with the Gulbenkian Orchestra
when the orchestra gave a series of concerts throughout the Far East and
mainland China. In February, 1981, Costa gave a solo recital at Carnegie Hall
in New York. He has recorded works by Ravel, Schumann, Chopin and Rakhmaninov.
The American conductor Stephen Gunzenhauser was educated in New York,
continuing his studies at Oberlin, at the Salzburg Mozarteum, at the New
England Conservatory and at Cologne State Conservatory. His period at the last
of these was the result of a Fulbright Scholarship, followed by an award from
the West German Government and a first prize in the conducting competition held
in the Spanish town of Santiago.
During the last two decades, Gunzenhauser has enjoyed a varied and
distinguished career, winning popularity in particular for his work with the
Delaware Symphony, an orchestra which he has recently conducted on an
eight-concert tour of Portugal. His other engagements have included appearances
with orchestras in Europe and America, from the RIAS Orchestra of Berlin, the
Hessischer Rundfunk Orchestra of Frankfurt and Dublin Radio Orchestra to the
Charlotte Orchestra of North Carolina, and orchestras in Victoria, B.C.,
Spokane and Knoxville.
For the Marco Polo label Stephen Gunzenhauser has recorded works by
Bloch, Liadov, Glière and Rubinstein, and for NAXOS Tchaikovsky's Symphony No.5, Beethoven Overtures, the Borodin Symphonies and the
Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony.
At present he is working on a project to record all the symphonies and
symphonic poems of Dvorak for NAXOS.
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