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If Schumann was going to make up for lost practice time, he was determined to find a way to strengthen his fingers. He created finger weights for himself. There is no record, that I can find, of what these weights might have looked like and thankfully there were no infomercials to sell these things, because as the first consumer he paralyzed a hand and ceased a very promising career. Thus, Robert Schumann the composer was born.

His piano concerto was completed in 1845 and premiered the same year by another Schumann named Clara. Sketches for the piano concerto date back as early as 1833, but the motivation for completing the work seems to have been Schumann’s marriage to Clara at the end of 1840. Remember when I told you Robert was studying with the master piano teacher, Fredrich Wieck? Well, Robert not only loved his lessons, but he loved Mr. Wieck’s daughter Clara, too. Mr. Wieck did not want to see this relationship between Robert and the teenage Clara. When the idea of marriage came up, it was bitterly opposed and the wedding was delayed for years. Clara was just beginning her career as a piano soloist and her father wanted nothing to get in the way of a stellar career.

Now, getting back to the reason we have all gathered here tonight. Robert had long planned to write a concerto for Clara. He wrote to her two years before their marriage saying, “My concerto is a compromise between a symphony, a concerto and a huge sonata. I now see that I cannot write a concerto for virtuosos- I must plan something else.” That “something else” was a single movement work titled, Phantasie. He was, however, unable to publish this piece, or even to have a single performance. Eventually, Schumann used the Phantasie as the first movement of the three movement concerto you will be hearing tonight. Robert completed the 2nd movement called, Intermezzo, and the 3rd movement called, Finale in the summer of 1845, four years later.

Clara wrote in her diary: “Robert has finished his concerto and handed it over to the copyist. I am happy as a king at the thought of playing it with an orchestra.” The new concerto became a success over time and truly was the cornerstone of Clara’s repertoire, even long after Robert’s death in 1856.

Today, we think of this concerto as one of Schumann’s greatest works. Not because we are playing it tonight, but because it has passed the greatest of all critics, the test of time. It is exceptionally beautiful, rich in melodies and pulsing with rhythmic energy. The opening movement begins with a burst of piano chords followed by this lovely oboe melody. (Play on violin m 5-12) This melody or theme is very important because when the piano takes it over from the oboe, Clara’s name is written into the harmonies. I’ll show you... Clara is spelled C-L-A-R-A. Since there are no musical letters for L and R, Schumann replaces those letters with a B for L, and a G# for the R. The notes of her name sound like this: (play Clara theme CBAG#A)You’ll be listening for what is called, the Clara Theme. (C.D. excerpt #1) The second theme is this beautiful melody played by the violins a few measures later.

(Play on violin m. 19-31) These two melodies will weave themselves through the first two movements in various forms.

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