Make Music Part of Your Life Series: Clara Schumann: Piano Concerto Op. 7 – Francesco Nicolosi


Clara Schumann: Piano Concerto Op. 7 – Francesco Nicolosi


  1. Allegro maestoso
  2. Romanze. Andante non troppo, con grazia
  3. Finale. Allegro non troppo
Clara Schumann
Clara Schumann 1878.jpg

Portrait by Franz von Lenbach, 1878
Born Clara Josephine Wieck
13 September 1819
Died 20 May 1896 (aged 76)
Frankfurt, German Empire
Cause of death
Nationality German
Occupation Pianist, composer
Spouse(s) Robert Schumann (m. 1840; wid. 1856)
Children Eight

Clara Schumann (née Clara Josephine Wieck; 13 September 1819 – 20 May 1896) was a German musician and composer, considered one of the most distinguished pianists of the Romantic era. She exerted her influence over a 61-year concert career, changing the format and repertoire of the piano recital and the tastes of the listening public. Her husband was the composer Robert Schumann. Together they encouraged Johannes Brahms, and she was the first pianist to give public performances of some of Brahms’s works, notably the Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel.[1]


Young Clara Wieck‘s piano concerto, like that of her future husband Robert Schumann, is in A minor, but that’s the only detail the two compositions share. Clara‘s concerto is the work of an independent-minded young piano virtuoso who, although she was only 13 when she began writing it, was fully aware of the most progressive tendencies of German music in the 1830s. It’s true that Robert did have his fingers in this piece; the two were already showing their works in progress to each other and in fact, Robert orchestrated what would in two years become the finale of Clara‘s three-movement concerto. But it’s more Chopin-esque than Schumann-esque. Originally, the Schumann-orchestrated movement stood alone under the titles Concert-Rondo and Concertsatz. The first movement, Allegro maestoso (Clara orchestrated this and the slow movement herself), begins with a serious, almost march-like orchestral introduction interrupted by a brief piano flourish; another orchestral statement follows, then an impressive keyboard cascade that surely later inspired the opening measures of Grieg‘s Concerto in A minor (Clara‘s concerto, though the work of a teenager, was quite popular through the nineteenth century). The piano takes over the thematic material with minimal orchestral support; the music has a lightness, a bittersweet flavor, and a digital complexity that suggest the influence of early Chopin and, to a lesser extent, her older Leipzig colleague Felix Mendelssohn. The piano retires, allowing the orchestra to lead the movement out of its development section, but just as it seems the piano is about to launch the traditional cadenza, it instead eases directly into the slow movement, called “Romanze.” This introduces a simple, graceful theme, moving upward in the manner of the main melodies of the outer movements. The piano occasionally offers a few bars of intricate filigree, and eventually it is joined by a solo cello singing the unadorned melodic line while the piano offers a more active, inventive accompaniment. (This anticipates the slow movement of Tchaikovsky‘s Piano Concerto No. 2, which is largely a trio for piano, cello, and violin.) Again, a few solo piano gestures lead directly into the final movement, the first to be composed. This is the most outgoing music so far, but it’s still rather stern. It also has something of the polonaise about it, again calling Chopin to mind. (The most obvious model, though, Chopin‘s Grand Polonaise Brillante, wasn’t published in its orchestral form until 1835.) This movement is almost as long as the first two combined. It’s cast as a rondo, although the episodes are poorly enough differentiated (and so unified by the polonaise rhythm) that the movement could as easily be regarded as a set of grimly glittering variations.

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