Schumann: Piano Quintet in E flat, Op 44


Robert Schumann (1810-1856) composed this lovely work in 1842, when he was 32. It is considered one of his finest compositions. It was innovative in teaming the piano with a string quartet of two violins, viola, and cello. Hitherto piano quintets had typically included violin, viola, cello, and double bass. This performance is by the Schubert Ensemble and was recorded in 2017.

He dedicated it to his wife, the pianist Clara Schumann, who was due to play in the first performance on 6 December 1842. However, she fell ill and Felix Mendelssohn stepped in, sight-reading the ‘fiendish’ piano part. Here is the score so that you can see what an achievement that was.

As with Brahms, I often sense a sort of desperation in Schumann. From the age of 23 he had episodes of depression and delusions, and he died in a mental asylum at the age of 46.

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