Schumann – Piano Concerto in A Minor, Opus 54

by Max Derrickson

Robert Schumann (1810-1856)

Piano Concerto in A Minor, Opus 54
1. Allegro affettuoso
2. Intermezzo: Andantino grazioso
3. Allegro vivace

Schumann began work on this concerto in 1841, just after his long-anticipated marriage to Clara Wieck, and amidst sketches for all four of his symphonies. This was a remarkably prolific period for Schumann, reflecting his joyous union with Clara.

Until this concerto, however, Schumann had concentrated mainly on solo piano music, chamber works, and lieder. He confessed, “I realize I cannot write a concerto for a virtuoso, so I must think up something else…something between a symphony, a concerto and a large sonata…a self-contained movement.”
[. . .]
At last Schumann turned the work into a full concerto. By July of 1845 he had completed all three movements. Clara premiered the concerto in Dresden that December.

The whole work is exquisite, full of inventiveness, extraordinary lyricism, tenderness, and energy.
[. . .]
Pianistically, the concerto is much more a vehicle for lyricism than virtuosity. Liszt derided the work as “a concerto without piano.” Sardonic remarks aside, the esteemed musicologist Donald Tovey summed up what everyone else hears: “…eminently beautiful from beginning to end, so free, spacious, and balanced in form, and so rich and various in ideas.”