Johann Straus II - Vergnügungszug (Pleasure Train), op. 281

Johann Strauss II , known for his waltzes and lively compositions, had a unique approach to his creative process. He consistently sought contemporary and relevant themes to serve as the driving force behind his new musical compositions. This approach ensured that his work remained fresh and connected with the audiences of his time.  One notable instance of this creative approach was the composition of this polka, composed in 1864. This piece of music was specifically crafted for a summer concert held in the picturesque Russian town of Pavlovsk. It's fascinating to note that Strauss drew inspiration for this composition from the world around him. In this case, he found it in the emerging technology of the time, namely, the steam locomotive. The composition itself is a testament to Strauss's ability to capture the essence and energy of the subject matter. The rhythm of this dance piece mirrors the rhythmic chugging and movements of the old-fashioned steam trains that were prevale

Robert Schumann - Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54


Schumann's wife, Clara, was an accomplished musician and outstanding pianist. She was the first to perform Schumann's Piano Concerto in A minor.

The first part of this famous romantic concerto, one of Schumann's most important works, was written in 1841 as a "Phantasie" for piano and orchestra with only one part. Robert Schumann had a hard time finding a publisher and gave it up. In 1845 he revised it, after his wife Clara urging him to expand it into a full piano concerto, by adding two parts and shaped the concerto as we know it today. 

Clara, which was an accomplished pianist, was the first to present the work, at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig on 13 August 1841 with only the first movement. The complete three-movement version was premiered in Dresden on 4 December 1845, again with Clara Schumann, and the dedicatee Ferdinand Hiller as the conductor. Less than a month later, on 1 January 1846, the concerto was performed in Leipzig, conducted by Felix Mendelssohn.


I. Allegro affetuoso

The first part, Allegro affetuoso, begins with an orchestral chord followed by the imposing, unequivocal introduction of the piano. Then the woodwinds introduce the unforgettable tune of the main melody, before the piano takes over. It follows a "transitional" theme in the strings with the fluid accompaniment of the piano, but soon the piano is imposed with an expressive staccato part.

The following second theme is actually a version of the main melody. It follows one of Schumann's most beautiful musics, as the clarinet and piano compete with each other in a long melodic current. It is interrupted by a lively part for piano and orchestra. But this gives way to a slow, tender place of great beauty where the piano converses with the woodwinds. The dialogue suddenly stops as powerful piano octaves passionately announce a return to the main melody.

In the cadenza that follows, Schumann consciously avoided the techniques and skills that usually characterize this improvisational section - he was opposed to the "keyboard gladiators" as he called it and wrote this part as a test for the musician rather than the virtuoso. The cadenza ends with an extended trill and the orchestra returns to complete the part with a faster version of the main melody.

ΙΙ. Intermezzo

The second part, Intermezzo, presents Schumann in a lovable, childish mood. The piano introduces a cute and simple theme. The orchestra then participates in its re-interpretation. Soon a second, slow, expressive theme appears in the deep chords, to which the piano responds. Orchestra and piano evolve back and forth and return to the first melody and suddenly, bassoons and clarinets announce the initial notes of the main theme of the first part. The piano responds with a series of faltering notes, which is repeated and then the music dashes without interruption to the last part.

ΙΙΙ. Allegro vivace

The third part, Allegro vivace, introduces a lively melody with dance parts for the piano. Soon it cedes its place to a syncope (famous for crushing the overconfidence of many conductors). A new, imposing melody is then introduced, which develops to some extent. This part requires excellent technique and sensitivity to express the impetuousness, without losing the magic of its musicality. Indeed, the part is full of musical ideas and maintains its pace and controlled energy until its end.