The Cello Concerto in A minor, Op. 129, by Robert Schumann was completed in a period of only two weeks, between 10 October and 24 October 1850, shortly after Schumann became the music director at Düsseldorf.
The concerto was never played in Schumann's lifetime. It was premièred on 9 June 1860, four years after his death, at the Leipzig Conservatory in a concert in honour of the 50th anniversary of Schumann's birth, with Ludwig Ebert as soloist.
The length of a typical performance is about 25 minutes.
The piece is in three movements, which follow on from each other without a pause:
- Nicht zu schnell (A minor)
- Langsam (F major)
- Sehr lebhaft (A minor – A major)
The work is scored for solo cello, two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, timpani, and strings.
The concerto is considered one of his more daring and adventurous works, due to the length of the exposition and the transcendental quality of the opening. On the autographed score, Schumann gave the title Konzertstück (concert piece) rather than Konzert (concerto), which suggested he intended to depart from the traditional conventions of a concerto from the very beginning.
Like Schumann's other concertos, the first movement of the cello concerto begins with a very short orchestral introduction followed by the solo introduction, which in turn is followed by a short tutti that leads into a lyrical melody.
The second movement is a very short lyrical movement in which the soloist occasionally uses double stops. It also features a descending fifth, a gesture used throughout the piece as a signal and homage to his wife, Clara Schumann.
The third movement is a lively rondo which contrasts with the first two movements. At the end of the movement, there is an accompanied in-tempo cadenza, something unprecedented in Schumann's day, that leads into the final coda. In recent years, some cellists have chosen instead to include their own unaccompanied cadenza at this point, although there is no indication that Schumann wished for one.
Schumann famously abhorred receiving applause between movements. As a result, there are no breaks between any of the movements in the concerto.
Cello Concerto: Free scores at the International Music Score Library Project.