Robert Schumann (1810–1856) Piano Concerto in A minor Op. 54
Urtext edited by Peter Jost [pno,orch] Duration: 31'
solo: pno – 126.96.36.199. – 188.8.131.52. – timp – str
"The" piano concerto in Urtext – In Cooperation with G. Henle Verlag
EB 10660 is printed in score form; two copies are needed for performance.
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Schumann's A minor concerto is considered as the ultimate romantic piano concerto. Since the Schumann anniversary year 2010, musicians will be able to base their performance on a complete Urtext edition. The state of the sources is unfortunately patchy, as the original version of the first movement, a "Phantasie" of 1841 that was given two trial performances, can no longer be reconstructed. On the other hand, the posthumously published score raises certain questions, since it diverges from the editions (solo part and orchestral parts) authorized by Schumann and published in 1846, after the first performance. The pianist Mitsuko Uchida contributed the fingering for the version for two pianos. Schumann's great solo concertos are thus available in their entirety from Breitkopf, in editions prepared with the expert help of major interpreters: the Cello Concerto with Heinrich Schiff and the Violin Concerto with Thomas Zehetmair.
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|1. Allegro affettuoso|
|3. Allegro vivace|
For piano virtuosi in the first half of the 19th century it made sense to present oneself to the public both as a pianist and composer by playing one’s own piano concerto. The young Robert Schumann was also inspired by the example of such virtuoso concertos, as composed by Johann Nepomuk Hummel, Friedrich Kalkbrenner, Henri Herz or John Field. Between 1827 and 1831 there is evidence that he tried to compose a piano concerto at least four times, although they were nothing more than initial attempts. Over the years that followed, Schumann’s reviews in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik show that his understanding of the genre had changed. He now considered a freer formal conception, as followed by Ignaz Moscheles in particular, to be the right way to proceed. Reviewing the latter’s 6th Piano Concerto op. 90 with its appropriate epithet of Concerto fantastique, Schumann reflected on a concerto model that – similar to Liszt’s later idea for the symphonic poem – was to combine the different characteristics of sonata form movements into one single movement: “One would have to devise a genre that would comprise a larger movement in a moderate tempo, in which the preparatory part takes over the role of a first allegro, the lyrical part that of the adagio and a brilliant ending that of the rondo. Perhaps the idea will provide stimulation, although we would admittedly most like to realise it in an extraordinary composition of our own.”
Schumann’s initial attempt from the beginning of 1839, the piano concerto movement in D minor, which he himself described as “something in between a symphony, concerto and large sonata,” remained a fragment. Another one, composed in spring 1841, flowed into a single movement Phantasie, after Schumann reaffirmed his plan with the entry “piano concerto with a form of its own” in his Projectenbuch. According to his Haushaltbuch the sketch of this Phantasie was made between 4 and 14 May 1841, and the instrumentation of the score was already completed on 20 May. Schumann revised the work at the beginning of August, and had orchestral parts made for two private rehearsals, which took place on 13 August 1841 with the Gewandhaus orchestra conducted by Ferdinand David with Clara Schumann at the piano. The experiences resulting from these rehearsals were set down in a new revision of the work that particularly affected the instrumentation. Due to the fact that all attempts at having the composition published were unsuccessful, there was also no public performance. In February 1843 the première of the work was considered as part of a concert to be given by a female singer friend in Leipzig. In the end, however, the plan was rejected. In January 1843, during the run-up to this concert, Schumann once again turned to the Phantasie: “Worked a great deal on the ‘Phantasie’” and “Busy with the concert piece” he noted in the Haushaltbuch on 11 and 13 January 1843. But his endeavours to have the work published were also to remain unrewarded in the autumn and winter of 1843, which led him to lay the work aside for the time being.
It is not known whether there was a concrete reason behind Schumann expanding his one movement composition into a concerto in summer 1845. According to his diary entries, he first of all composed the final movement that was originally entitled Rondo: he made the sketch between 14 and 17 June at the latest, and undertook the instrumentation, which was preceded by the transfer of the solo part into what was later the score of the Piano Concerto, between 1 and 12 July. Clara Schumann considered the two-movement work to be finished, because on 27 June she wrote in her diary: “Robert has written a last beautiful movement for his Phantasie for piano and orchestra in A minor, so that it has now become a concerto that I will play next winter.” However, Schumann decided to add an Andantino grazioso, which was already marked as being finished in the score on 16 July. He reworked the Phantasie as the opening movement of the Concerto, which was finished on 29 July according to the final date in the score. Shortly afterwards, the Dresden copyist Carl Mehner, who had already entered the solo part for the opening movement into the score, was commissioned to make the orchestral parts. The première that had been planned for the autumn did not materialise, so the first performance only took place on 4 December 1845 in Dresden. Ferdinand Hiller, to whom the work was later dedicated, conducted the orchestra for the subscription concerts, and the soloist was Clara. Yet it was the first performance in Leipzig on 1 January 1846 that proved more important than this quite poorly attended special concert. Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy directed the rehearsals, but probably handed over the baton to Niels W. Gade for the performance. The success of the Concerto, which according to press reports was not only due to the quality of this new kind of work but also to Clara Schumann’s playing, also finally led to Schumann’s op. 54 being accepted by a publisher. In July 1846 Breitkopf & Härtel published the first editions of the solo and orchestral parts. It was in this context that the two new movements finally received their definitive titles: the Andantino grazioso was named Intermezzo, and the title Rondo for the closing Allegro vivace was omitted.
As Bernhard R. Appel was able to convincingly demonstrate, the single movement Phantasie version, of which the draft and score are missing, can no longer be reconstructed. Although the first movement in the surviving autograph of the Piano Concerto is based on the original piano part of this Phantasie, the extent of the reworking can no longer be exactly ascertained. Without a doubt the substance and basic conception remained unaltered when it was revised. Yet Clara Schumann summed up the forward- looking partnership between the solo and tutti following the rehearsals for the Phantasie on 13 August 1841: “The piano is intertwined with the orchestra in the finest manner – one cannot imagine the one without the other.” Schumann had particular difficulties with the transition from the Intermezzo to the finale while expanding the work into the Piano Concerto. The layers of corrections in the autograph score show that there were a total of seven different versions. In the end Schumann decided on a fully composed transition which thematically also refers to the opening movement and thus directly back to the model of Moscheles’ previously mentioned 6th Piano Concerto.
A performance of the work at the Niederrheinisches Musikfest in 1853 occasioned Schumann to undertake a critical review of the orchestral parts. With his letter of 19 May 1853 to Hermann Härtel he enclosed a correction slip and in addition pointed out a change to the instrumentation in the strings. He expressly refers to a score in Breitkopf & Härtel’s possession that had presumably been put together using the printed parts and that either directly or indirectly formed the model for the posthumous first edition of the score in 1862 (cf. “Revisionsbericht”). Due to the fact that both the correction slip and the publisher’s score are missing, it can no longer be ascertained to what extent, or even whether at all, the changes in the first edition of the score were made by Schumann himself. The primary sources for this edition are therefore the first editions of the solo and orchestral parts from 1846 that Schumann authorised.
An authentic or authorised piano reduction of op. 54 does not exist. In August 1841, directly after the aforementioned private rehearsals of the Phantasie, Schumann also offered the publisher Friedrich Kistner an arrangement for two pianos. However, following its expansion into a concerto with three movements, he did not take this up again. It was only in 1861, when the score was being prepared for printing, that Breitkopf & Härtel also posthumously published an arrangement of the orchestral part for piano, presumably by Carl Reinecke.
Despite the dedication to Ferdinand Hiller, from the outset the work was very closely associated with Clara Schumann. The sequence of notes in the main motif at the beginning of the work, C–B (in German H)–A–A, might even be a hidden cipher for “Chiara”, Clara’s name in the fictitious “Davidsbund.” She immediately took the Concerto into her repertoire and up to 1850 was the only person to play the solo part in all public performances. Indeed, she was the soloist in over 100 of the around 190 performances in Europe between 1845 and 1900. She was thus instrumental in the spread and success of the work, which is considered “the” romantic piano concerto today.
The Heinrich-Heine-Institut, Düsseldorf, the Robert-Schumann- Haus, Zwickau, and the Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Carl von Ossietzky in Hamburg are warmly thanked for their kindness in making their sources available.
Buchloe, Spring 2010