A very special friendship had developed between Brahms and Clara and Robert Schumann from the September day in 1853 when the young man first visited them. He had made a deep impression on the couple as a composer and pianist. Schumann expressed his enthusiasm in an article titled “Neuen Bahnen” published in Die Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik in October. He also dedicated to Brahms the Introduction and Allegro for Piano and Orchestra op.134 which he had recently composed. Shortly afterwards Schumann showed the first signs of a violent derangement by his attempt to commit suicide. He was taken to a mental institution where he died two years later in 1856.
The tragic events in Schumann’s life and the support he gave to Brahms culminating in the dedication of the op.134 work to him had a profound effect on the young composer. It is well known that during this period Brahms composed his first piano concerto under the strong influence of the dramatic events in Schumann’s life. What seems not to have attracted much attention is the fact that there was also a direct inspiration from Schumann’s music and that Brahms first piano concerto is thematically strongly linked to Schumann’s op.134 work. This can be observed in a comparison of the two scores as well as closely listening to the music. Beside the D Minor tonality which is the same in both works, one is amazed to discover that the point of departure of the whole of the Brahms concerto is this last composition of Schumann for piano and orchestra. In each of the three movements of the concerto in the main themes and their development there are many direct quotations from Schumann’s introduction and Allegro.* These quotations take all possible imaginable forms to such an extent that Brahms’ first concerto could be considered to be a set of magnified variations on the main themes and ideas of Schumann’s Introduction and Allegro op.134. It would require the genius of Brahms to create such an original totally Brahmsian work from ingredients which are so typically those of Schumann.
* For example, compare the trombone solo passage in the coda of Schumann’s work (track 4 / 13.33 – 13.42) with that in the Brahms concerto (track 1 / 20.29 – 20.38) Naxos CD 8.554088.