Skip to page content

Composed: 1849

Length: 15 minutes

Orchestration: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, strings, and solo piano

First Los Angeles Philharmonic performances

It is a shame that one of the legacies of the 19th century, despite its abundance of innovation, was a formalization of what we now think of as a standard concert formula. Audiences are trained to expect a short opening piece, usually an overture, followed by a substantial concerto featuring an instrumental soloist, then after intermission a symphony. The victims are the odd centaur-like pieces which don't fit easily into one of these categories. Pieces such as Schumann's entertaining Introduction and Allegro appassionato, Op. 92 for piano and orchestra get few chances to shine.

After the enormous success of the Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54 (a success for both the composer and his wife, the celebrated pianist Clara Schumann, who played the Concerto widely), four years would elapse before Schumann began composing again for the combination of piano and orchestra. The Introduction and Allegro was completed in September of 1849 and premiered by Clara. After mixed reviews it fell quickly into undeserved obscurity, perhaps already a victim of the clash between audience expectations and its novel form.

In barely 15 minutes, Schumann celebrates two of the great themes of the Romantic movement. The period's rapidly developing reverence for nature in the face of the mechanical regimentation of industrialization is heard in the vernal and fluid piano arpeggios and hushed orchestral melodies of the introduction. The joyful and somewhat martial swagger of the concluding allegro is an evocation of the individual as hero - Schumann's alter ego heading off to do battle with the Philistines.

- Annotator Grant Hiroshima is the executive director of a private foundation and the former director of Information Technology for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association.