ROBERT SCHUMANN • Piano Concerto Op.54 • live recording

The Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54, by the German Romantic composer Robert Schumann was completed in 1845 and is the composer’s only piano concerto. The complete work was premiered in Dresden on 4 December 1845. It is one of the most widely performed and recorded piano concertos from the Romantic period.

Schumann had worked on several piano concertos earlier. He began one in E-flat major in 1828, from 1829–31 he worked on one in F major, and in 1839, he wrote one movement of a concerto in D minor. None of these works were completed.

Already on 10 January 1833, Schumann first expressed the idea of writing a Piano Concerto in A minor. In a letter to his future father-in-law, Friedrich Wieck, he wrote: “I think the piano concerto must be in C major or in A minor.”[1] From 17–20 May 1841, Schumann wrote a fantasy for piano and orchestra, his Phantasie in A minor.[2] Schumann tried unsuccessfully to sell this one-movement piece to publishers. In August 1841 and January 1843 Schumann revised the piece, but was unsuccessful. His wife Clara, an accomplished pianist, then urged him to expand it into a full piano concerto. In 1845 he added the Intermezzo and Allegro vivace to complete the work. It remained the only piano concerto that Schumann finished.

The premiere of the first movement (Phantasie) took place on 13 August 1841 at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig with Clara Schumann as the soloist. The complete three-movement version was premiered in Dresden on 4 December 1845, again with Clara Schumann, and the dedicatee Ferdinand Hiller as the conductor. Less than a month later, on 1 January 1846, the concerto was performed in Leipzig, conducted by Felix Mendelssohn.

After this concerto, Schumann wrote two other pieces for piano and orchestra: the Introduction and Allegro Appassionato in G major, Op. 92, and the Introduction and Allegro Concertante in D minor, Op. 134.