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SCHUMANN PIANO QUINTET, OP 44
in E flat Major for piano and string quartet



I was 17 when I first heard the Schumann Piano Quintet. It was an epiphany. I rushed out to buy the score, determined to run away to Paris and make my fortune as an itinerant chamber musician. It only took a few weeks for the more obvious absurdities of the plan to dawn on me: I had no money for a ticket, I had nowhere to stay in Paris, and I couldn't play the third movement of the quintet. But my devotion to this piece has never wavered and to this day when I hear it, it is with the excitement of my first time.

I still can't play the third movement of the Schumann Piano Quintet, but most good pianists can and some great ones have recorded it as you will hear below.

Schumann is reported to have composed the work over a period of a few weeks in 1842. Aside from an early piano quartet written while he was still in his teens, Schumann had written no chamber music prior to 1842, a year known as his "Chamber Music Year" during which we wrote three string quartets, a piano trio, a piano quartet and this magnificent quintet.

It is dramatic, passionate, exquisitely melodic, perfectly crafted, in short, an outpouring of musical emotion, perhaps creating in a burst of creative energy the grand romantic tradition. But it was the second movement that turned me into a lunatic in 1965.

Here are a number of complete performances of the Schumann Piano Quintet. Some of the great pianists represented are Martha Argerich (the first of whose is my favorite), Arthur Rubinstein (classically elegant, as always), Sviatoslav Richter, Rudolf Serkin, whose recordings are my perhaps the ones I find most satisfying, and Clifford Curzon, Leonard Bernstein, Hélène Grimaud, and Alicia de Larrocha.

We also have a wonderful recording of the first movement by Ossip Gabrilowitsch and the Flonzaley Quartet and a breathtaking performance of the scherzo movement by Artur Schnabel.

The movements of the Schumann Piano Quintet are: i Allegro brillante - ii In modo d'una marcia. Un poco largamente - iii Scherzo: Molto vivace - iv Allegro ma non troppo



Ossip Gabrilowitsch (1878-1936), Russian-born American pianist
recorded in 1927 with the Flonzaley Quartet


i Allegro brillante




Artur Schnabel (1882-1951), Austrian pianist
recorded in 1934 with the Pro Arte Quartet


iii Scherzo: Molto vivace




Artur Rubinstein (1887-1982), Polish-born American pianist
recorded in 1966 with the Guarneri Quartet


i Allegro brillante



ii In modo d'una marcia. Un poco largamente



iii Scherzo: Molto vivace



iv Allegro ma non troppo




Rudolf Serkin (1903-1991), Bohemian-born pianist
recorded in 1942 with the Bush String Quartet




Clifford Curzon (1907-1982), English pianist
recorded in 1951 with the Budapest String Quartet




Sviatoslav Richter (1915-1997), Soviet pianist
with the Borodin String Quartet


i Allegro brillante



ii In modo d'una marcia. Un poco largamente



iii Scherzo: Molto vivace



iv Allegro ma non troppo




Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990), American conductor, opmposer and pianist
with the Julliard String Quartet




Alicia de Larrocha (1923-2009), Spanish-Catalan pianist
with the Tokyo String Quartet


i Allegro brillante



ii In modo d'una marcia. Un poco largamente



iii Scherzo: Molto vivace



iv Allegro ma non troppo




Menahem Pressler (b 1923), German-born American pianist
with members of the Beaux Arts Trio and unidentified others


i Allegro brillante



ii In modo d'una marcia. Un poco largamente



iii Scherzo: Molto vivace



iv Allegro ma non troppo




Martha Argerich (b 1941), Argentine pianist
with Mischa Maisky, cello and unidentified others


i Allegro brillante



ii In modo d'una marcia. Un poco largamente



iii Scherzo: Molto vivace - iv Allegro ma non troppo




Martha Argerich (b 1941), Argentine pianist
with Renaud Capucon, violin/Mischa Maisky, cello and unidentified others




Martha Argerich (b 1941), Argentine pianist
recorded live in 2011 with Guy Braunstein and Kashimoto Daishin, violins
Amihai Grosz, viola / Mischa Maisky, cello


i Allegro brillante



ii In modo d'una marcia. Un poco largamente



iii Scherzo: Molto vivace - iv Allegro ma non troppo




Christian Zacharias (b 1950), German pianist
with the Cherubini Quartett


i Allegro brillante



ii In modo d'una marcia. Un poco largamente



iii Scherzo: Molto vivace



iv Allegro ma non troppo




Zoltán Kocsis (b 1952), Hungarian pianist
with the Takács Quartett




Alexander Paley (b 1956), Moldovian-born American pianist
with the Filarmonica Quartett


i Allegro brillante



iii Scherzo: Molto vivace



iv Allegro ma non troppo




Hélène Grimaud (b 1969), French pianist
recorded live in 2007 with Renaud Capuçon and Shoji Sayaka, violins
Lars Anders Tomter, viola/Mischa Maisky, cello





ii In modo d'una marcia. Un poco largamente



iii Scherzo: Molto vivace - iv Allegro ma non troppo




Daniil Trifonov (b 1991), Russian pianist
recorded live in 2011 with the Ariel String Quartet




Misha Dichter (b 1945), American pianist
recorded live with the Harlem String Quartet




Romain David (b 1978), French pianist
recorded live in 2001 with members of the Ensemble Syntonia




Alexander Kobrin (b 1980), Russian pianist
recorded live in 2013 with the Glinka String Quartet




Beatrice Rana (b 1993), Italian pianist
recorded live in 2013 with the Brentano String Quartet




Federica Valli, contemporary Italian pianist
with members of La Gaia Scienza performing on period instruments










For those of you who enjoy murder mysteries, here is my first with a strong musical polemic as background

Murder in the House of the Muse

which is also available as an audiobook.



And this is the more recently published second mystery in the series:

Murder Follows the Muse



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