Robert and Felix
Lord Byron’s Manfred is, alongside Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, one of the best-known horror stories of the 19th century. Exorcisms, medieval castles in inhospitable mountain landscapes and a Faustian protagonist who curses both heaven and hell as he dies are all at the heart of this thoroughly romantic drama. Robert Schumann was so impressed that he wrote a theatrical score to the German translation. The overture of this incidental music summarises Manfred exceptionally well and became part of the concert repertoire.
In contrast to Schumann, Mendelssohn was not remotely considered a suffering artist. Composing came easily to him: he rustled up his Piano Concerto No. 1 in a couple of days. Apparently, he did not even write out the piano score: he played it from memory during the premiere. Further performances by Clara Schumann and Franz Liszt ensured the outstanding success of Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No. 1.
Robert Schumann began writing the piece that is now known as his Symphony No. 4 a few months after the completion of his Symphony No. 1. However, its December 1841 premiere was a disaster: Mendelssohn was not available to conduct and the piano duet that Clara Schumann and Franz Liszt played as a crowd-puller outshone Schumann’s poorly-executed Symphony in D minor. More than ten years later, Schumann returned to his symphony, made significant changes to it and then published it as his Symphony No. 4 (and also his last).
Manfred, Ouverture, op. 115
Piano Concerto no. 1, op. 25
Symphony no. 4, op. 120
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