About this Recording
8.550277 - SCHUMANN, R.: Piano Concerto, Op. 54 / 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 Schumann children.

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

In 1844 the Schumanns moved from Leipzig to the city of Dresden. Robert Schumann had suffered intermittently from depression, accentuated by the fact that he had now become the consort of a pianist of considerable fame, his own role a decidedly secondary one during the concert tour of Russia that had occupied the earlier months of the year. Dresden, where Wagner had recently become conductor at the opera, was, in spite of this, relatively conservative. Here Schumann set about the task of teaching his young wife counterpoint, while he returned to his work as a composer with a certain renewal of energy.

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 accompaniment.

Introduction and Allegro, Opus 134

For the greater part of his career Schumann had held no official musical position. In 1850, however, he moved to Duesseldorf as director of music in succession to his friend from Dresden Ferdinand Hiller, who was to take up a similar position in Cologne. Here he hoped to establish himself, but events were to bring frustration and disappointment, with inadequacies in performance and disagreements with musicians and administrators.

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.

Sequeira Costa
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.

Stephen Gunzenhauser
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.

Close the window