Schumann's compositional output in the beginning was for the piano exclusively until about 1840. In his early works he composed pieces that were some of the first examples of program music, music that was inspired and influenced by literary or other outside forces. He also became a music critic and was instrumental in promoting the music of Chopin, Brahms and other composers.
The work is in three movements:
I. Allegro affetuoso - After a call to order by the orchestra and the piano, the first theme is heard in the oboe and winds. This theme (and pieces of it) is played through different guises throughout the movement. The piano plays a cadenza near the end and the movement draws to an exciting finish.
II.Intermezzo: Andantino grazioso - This is the movement that in some ways foreshadows Brahms and influenced him greatly. Near the end of this gentle song there is a reference to the theme from the first movement, and the second movement segues directly into the last movement.
III. Allegro vivace - The theme of this movement is first heard in the piano after a rushing run for the strings. It is one of Schumann's most successful pieces of music as it is full of variety and orchestral color.
Schumann is in many ways the ultimate Romantic. He did help usher in the Romantic era with his compositions and musical critiques. His life was one that was filled with mental brilliance offset by periods of mental imbalance and depression. He would compose at white-hot inspiration at times and have difficulty composing anything at others. His life was a life of excess, a life of fantasy, a life of creativity and ultimately a life that ended in an insane asylum when he was but 46 years old. But he left a legacy of fine compositions, of which the piano concerto is arguably the best of them all.