Rostropovich - Bernstein- Schumann cello concerto28:56

Rostropovich - Bernstein- Schumann cello concerto


This is one of Robert Schumann's late works, written in 1850. It was premiered in 1860 after his death. A very demanding work for the cello due to its large shifts and sudden colour changes.


Concerto written in three movements played attacca.

  1. Nicht zu schnell
  2. Langsam
  3. Sehr Lebhaft

Schumann by this time had been using his characters Eusebius and Florestan in his music critiques and other works. They make appearances in this concerto as well. The cello does their work to contrast the meloncholy Eusebius and passionate Florestan throughout the piece. This is clearly a departure from classical concerti (See Haydn concerti) both in terms of form and sound. Alternation between solo and orchestra are much closer together than before and unlike baroque concertos have longer more flowing melodies rather than relying on heavy sequencing. Schumann uses very light string accompaniment when the soloist is playing, but at times lays the winds overtop with iterations of themes that were presented in the solo part. The second movement is incredibly short, but beautiful. In it, the soloist is accompanied by light pizzacato and a cello soloist from the orchestra while the theme is presented. A section of double-stops is the highlight of the movement. The transition to the third movement reiterates the theme in a much more dramatic fashion before accelerating into the final movement. A very technically challenging movement, it features many leaps and arpeggiations. An interesting thing to note is that Schumann makes little calls for Clara shown with the falling sixths/minor sevenths. The performer has an extended cadenza before the final coda ends with arpeggiation up to a high A followed by chords. A very final ending.

Schumann writes this concerto heavily as soloist and accompaniment rather than equals. The string writing is rather awkward, but performers making use of rubato resolve this issue. One can tell that this is indeed Schumann from all the character changes throughout the piece. He makes use of many different timbres in both the orchestra and the soloist.  


The nearest cello concerto in the standard repertoire appears to be the Saint-Saens No. 1. This is a drastically different piece, meant to show off the technical prowess of the performer more so than the range of musical colors. Saint-Saens' concerto is in the same key, but is approached in a much different manner. It is much more direct and to the point than Schumann's wandering melodies. If one compares side to side, Schumann is far more difficult to keep a firm grasp on with his longer lines. Interestingly, it too runs attacca between its three movements. 

Saint-Saens Video:




Craig Wright and Bryan Simms, Music in Western Civilization (Boston, Schirmer, 2010) pp. 531- 533

John Daverio and Eric Sams. "Schumann, Robert." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, accessed April 15, 2014, .

Anssi Karttunen, The Concerto of Robert Schumann (2013)

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