Brahms was to appear on the doorstep of the Schumann household a few weeks after Clara’s thirty-fourth birthday, in 1853. As a present Robert had given Clara not only a new grand piano, but had placed on top of it the manuscript of his new Introduction and Concert-Allegro, Op 134. Her joy was boundless. The short introduction opens with pizzicato chords in the orchestra, interrupted by the piano with a lyrical theme in triple metre that will reappear in the Allegro with an extra beat added. In the Allegro, a new theme is introduced by the pianist which is of a tenderness that only Schumann could produce. An extended cadenza takes up almost a quarter of the entire piece and is a wonderful rhapsody on the material already presented. The first performances were given by Clara in Holland (Utrecht, The Hague, Amsterdam) in November–December 1853 with Robert conducting. Less than three months later Robert tried to commit suicide by throwing himself into the Rhine and was subsequently placed in the asylum at Endenich. Clara was not allowed to visit him; but Brahms went, and during one of his visits in February 1855 Schumann wrote in his notebook that Op 134 was to be dedicated to him. Brahms wrote to Clara: ‘You know quite well what delight your husband has given me in dedicating this particular work to me. This and the Violin Fantasy [Op 131] are the concertos of his which I love the most.’ After her husband’s death the following year Clara no longer performed the piece, but Brahms did so in Vienna in 1869.
from notes by Angela Hewitt © 2012