Schumann Piano Quartet Analysis

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Music Performance – Unit Three Outcome One and Two: Criteria One: Knowledge of Work Selected for Performance.

WORK:| Piano Quartet in Eb major Mvmt’1 Op.47 By Robert Schumann| <Instrumentation: Violin, Viola, Cello and Piano>

Robert Alexander Schumann was a German Romantic composer and music critic who lived from 8 June 1810 to 29 July 1856. He composed this piece in 1842, also known as his ‘Chamber Music Year.’ Schumann had never written a chamber work until this year except an early piano quartet in 1829. However, in 1842, he composed the Three String Quartets Op. 41, the Piano Quintet Op.44, the Piano Quartet Op.47 and a piano trio, which became the Fantasiestuke Op. 88 later on. This Piano Quartet is also known as the ‘creative double’ of the Piano Quintet and is less known then its other significant half. He began writing this Quartet on October 24 1842; finished it within a month then was first published in 1845.

At the time of Schumann’s ‘Chamber Music year’, chamber music was making the change in its stage from the private venues to bigger concert performances. Schumann and other famous composer of those times such as Mendelssohn and Brahms started experimenting with more complex and larger ensembles to meet the expectations of a larger and more demanding concert environments. They combined the strings with the newly developed and much more capable and virtuosic piano.

Being an Early Romantic (1820-1850) piece, you can find typical stylistic features of the period in this piece. They are: * Big range of dynamics
* Increase in pedalling in the piano
* Focus on evoking emotion and self expression
* The piano is the most prominent part
* The formal structure of the pieces were expanded
* Emphasis on lyrical, song-like melodies
* Adventurous and numerous modulations
* Richer harmonies
* Abundance of chromatic passages
* Bold dramatic contrasts
* Explores wider range of pitch and tone colours
* Great technical virtuosity

Some composers liked to experiment with the form of their compositions during this period. However, the piano quartet was written at a time when Schumann was studying the chamber music of Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn extensively which influenced very strict forms in this piece.

The piece is in four movements:
1. Sostenuto Assai – Allegro Ma Non Troppo
2. Scherzo. Molto Vivace
3. Andante Cantabile
4. Finale: Vivace

The first movement is in Sonata Form (large scale).
It has the standard structure of a classical sonata form (introduction (optional), exposition, development, recapitulation and coda (optional)), although it has longer sections such as longer introductions and longer development sections. In this piece, the introduction is extremely long in proportion to the other sections.

It begins with the strings playing in rhythmic unison of the Eb major chords with a very simple piano accompaniment. On the 4th bar of this 12-bar introduction, the first forte is introduced on an Eb dominant 7 chord. This calm introduction ends with the violin and piano with a question-like passage, which ascends, in semitones. The final note is a Bb, which is the dominant of the key. The whole introduction is very diatonic but you could already notice some chromaticism in the first 12 bars of the piece, unlike classical music where accidentals were harder to see. Tempo marked is crotchet = 76 and the whole movement is in 4/4.

In the exposition, themes can be divided into 2 subjects. 1st subject – which is chords followed by a 2 –bar simple piano solo consisted of quavers moving up and down in 2nds and 3rds and the 2nd subject – which is lyrical passages accompanied driving quavers. The exposition is from bar 13 to 63. 1st and 2nd subjects alternates throughout the first theme. Because of the detached chords, this section could be played ‘jolly’, however, this piece should be played in a style called ‘strum und drang’ which is...
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