Piano Quintet (Schumann)

Piano Quintet (Schumann)

The "Piano Quintet in E flat major", Op. 44, by Robert Schumann was written in 1842. Like most piano quintets, it is written for piano and string quartet (two violins, viola and cello).


The work was composed in just a few weeks in September and October 1842, during his "Chamber Music Year." Prior to that year Schumann had completed no chamber music at all with the exception of an early piano quartet (in 1829). However, during his year-long concentration on the genre he wrote three string quartets and a piano trio and piano quartet in addition to his popular piano quintet.

Schumann was the first romantic composer to pair the piano with the string quartet. "In the first happiness of reunion with the piano, his creative imagination took on a new lease of life," writes Joan Chisell [Joan Chisell, "Robert Schumann" in Alec Robertson, ed. "Chamber music" (1963, Penguin), p. 184] . The ensemble was later used by many composers; some of the well-known quintets are by Johannes Brahms, Antonín Dvořák, César Franck, Edward Elgar, and Dmitri Shostakovitch.


The piece is in four movements, in the standard quick-slow-scherzo-quick pattern:

#"Allegro brillante"
#"In modo d'una marcia. Un poco largamente"
#"Scherzo: Molto vivace"
#"Allegro ma non troppo"

First Movement: "Allegro Brillante"

The tempo marking for the first movement is "Allegro brillante" (note the correct spelling - "Allegro brilliante" is neither correct Italian nor the published spelling). The Italian adjective "brillante" means "glittering" or "sparkling"; as a noun, the word means "diamond".

Second Movement: "In modo d'una marcia. Un poco largamente"

This movement is like a funeral march. It is of note that before the faster section of this movement, there is the same sequence of octaves in the piano as in the first movement before the piano solo.

Third Movement: "Scherzo: Molto vivace"

A lively movement built almost entirely on ascending and descending scales. There are two trios. The first trio is a lyrical canon for violin and viola. The second trio is a heavily accented perpetual motion.

Finale: "Allegro ma non troppo"

At the end of the piece, the last movement's main theme is combined with the first movement's main theme in a double fugue.


Clara Schumann, the composer's wife and a noted pianist, premiered the work on 8 January, 1843, at the Leipzig Gewandhaus, and often played the work throughout her life, despite criticism of her performance from her husband late in his life and a statement that only a man could understand it (it is said, though, that Schumann said this in a moment of jealousy, as it is well known that he sometimes had problems with being "Mr. Clara Schumann", husband of the renowned virtuoso). Despite its popularity, Franz Liszt heard the piece at the Schumanns' home and was distinctly unimpressed by it, dismissing it as being "too Leipzigerisch", a reference to the conservative musical style of composers from Leipzig, especially Felix Mendelssohn.



*Berger, Melvin. "Guide to Chamber Music", Dover, 2001, 404-405.
*Daverio, John. “'Beautiful and Abstruse Conversations': The Chamber Music of Schumann.” "Nineteenth-Century Chamber Music". Ed. Stephen E. Hefling. New York: Schirmer, 1998: 208–41.
*Nelson, J.C. ‘Progressive Tonality in the Finale of the Piano Quintet, op.44 of Robert Schumann’. "Indiana Theory Review, xiii/1" (1992): 41–51.
*Wollenberg, Susan. ‘Schumann's Piano Quintet in E flat: the Bach Legacy’, "The Music Review, lii" (1991): 299–305.
*Westrup, J. ‘The Sketch for Schumann's Piano Quintet op.44’, "Convivium musicorum: Festschrift Wolfgang Boetticher". Ed. H. Hüschen and D.-R. Moser. Berlin, 1974: 367–71.
*Tovey, D.F. "Essays in Musical Analysis: Chamber Music". London: Oxford, 1944: 149–54.

See also

* Chamber music
* Romanticism

External links

*IMSLP2|id=Piano_Quintet%2C_Op.44_%28Schumann%2C_Robert%29|cname=Piano Quintet
* [http://www.gardnermuseum.org/music/artist/ravinia_steans.asp Performance of full quintet from media section] from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

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