Schumann, Robert: Piano Concerto in A minor Op. 54
Schumann, Robert: Piano Concerto in A minor Op. 54

Schumann, Robert: Piano Concerto in A minor Op. 54


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New Urtext Edition by Michael Musgrave

Schumann’s Piano Concerto traces its origins, through the first movement, to a single-movement Phantasie in A minor for piano and orchestra which was completed in May 1841 (his “symphonic year”) and revised at the beginning of 1843. Clara Schumann, who had long wanted a major work for piano and orchestra from Schumann, played through the Phantasie with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in 1841 but, although she played it again in 1843, it was never publicly performed, nor a publisher found, even though they were both happy with the work.

In the summer of 1845 in Dresden, where they had now moved, Schumann revised the Phantasie and added a second and third movement to form what is described on the surviving manuscript of the full score as “Concerto for piano . . . with accompaniment . . .”. It was premiered on 4 December 1845 at a special Clara Schumann concert with Dresden musicians, independent of the regular subscription concerts, conducted by their friend and supporter Ferdinand Hiller, the dedicatee. The performance was critically successful and a second performance was arranged at the more prestigious Leipzig Gewandhaus at the 11th subscription concert on New Year’s Day 1846, under its conductor Mendelssohn. This performance was an even greater success than the first, and the work was immediately accepted by the Leipzig publisher Breitkopf and Härtel and quickly established itself as a repertory work. Schumann made corrections to the orchestral parts for the performance he conducted with Clara at the Lower Rhine Music Festival in May 1853.

The history of the work is dominated by Clara Schumann’s promotion of it over a period of 40 years or so. Robert Schumann never played the work, since he had given up public performance by the time of its composition. All evidence is that Clara played it to his great satisfaction, and it was obviously meant for her.

Michael Musgrave, Extract from the Preface to the new Urtext Edition