Composed in 1842 during a creative spurt of chamber music, Schumann’s only Piano Quintet was one of the pioneering works for this novel instrumentation: a piano with a full string quartet (two violins, viola, and cello). To this day, there are not many works for the odd combination，only a few dozen pieces make up the entire repertoire. But Schumann’s Quintet placed the idea on the compositional map.The work is neither suitable for a salon nor a huge auditorium, rather, it is best performed in a medium-sized venue, to accommodate both the soloistic piano and the more intimate string passages.
The ﬁrst movement opens in a declamatory E flat major, all voices in half notes for two bars, and then quickly begins to move into further divisions of the beat. Schumann then expands upon both the harmonic and rhythmic motives presented therein throughout the entire work. The movement is in classical sonata form, moving to the dominant B flat for the second theme, through a development, and then to a recapitulation, in which both of ﬁrst themes return, this time both in E flat.
In the relative minor, the second movement “In modo d’una Marcia” is more like a funeral march. Its somber theme is passed around the strings and piano, curt and pizzicato in a sotto voce dynamic. The B-theme of this movement is a wildly contrastive arco espressivo, the cello and ﬁrst violin carrying long moving lines while the second violin and viola ﬁll in eighth notes inhemiola against the piano’s triplet quarters.
The third movement is Scherzo, a lively movement built almost entirely on ascending and descending scales. There are two trios, the first one is a lyrical canon for violin and viola, the second trio is a heavily accented continue motion.
The fianl movement is begin on g minor, start with a c minor chord, rather than in the tonic. then soon gracefully shif to E flat major. A B-theme enters in G Major, and a development section ensues. The A and B-themes then return, followedby a fuge on the ﬁrst theme material, and a seeming coda.
Compare with Schumann's piano quintet, I choose one of my favourite piece, Schumann's Kreisleriana op.16 which is composed in 1838. It is a very dramatic work with eight movements and is considered to be one of Schumann's finest compositions. Each movement has multi contrasting sections and inner imaginary characters. It has much more dramatic elements than the piano quintet. Much more like a fantasy, reflecting Schumann's inner world.
Schumann is one of my favourite composer in Romantic era and Schumann piano quintet is the chamber piece that i'm currently working on. I really enjoy Schumann's unique romantic music language in interpreting his own personality.
Burkholder, J. Peter, Donald Jay Grout, and Claude V, Oalisca. A History of Western Music. Eighth Edition. (W.W. Norton and Campany, New York, New York). 2010
"Martha Argerich Schumann Quintet in E-Flat Major Op.44" Youtube Video. Uploaded Feb.23, 2013. Posted by “ martha argerich” Accessed April 9, 2014.
Johnston, Blair. Piano Quintet in E-Flat Major Op.44