- Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54
- Piano Quintet in E flat major, Op. 44
Other piano concertos of the romantic era give soloists more opportunity to show off their technique and strike heroic poses, but few are so thoroughly imbued with the lyrical and exuberant spirit of romanticism as Robert Schumann's. The concerto has its share of brilliance too, especially in the buoyant finale that sweeps away the innocent idyll of the slow movement, requiring a pianist who can marry intensity to melodious warmth. The Portuguese virtuoso Maria João Pires, renowned for her interpretations of Schubert and Chopin as well as Schumann, is just such a pianist; the concerto's technical challenges are seemingly effortless for her, and both she and conductor Claudio Abbado are deeply sensitive to the music's varied rhapsodic moods. Pires also shines in Schumann's Piano Quintet, the composer's most popular chamber work and the first major composition to be written for the combination of piano and string quartet. The quintet's sparkling vivacity -- interrupted only by the funeral march of the slow movement -- makes for an exhilarating encounter between Pires and her four colleagues, with an especially thrilling roller-coaster ride through the animated scherzo.