Contrary to what is suggested by its number, which places it last among Robert Schumann’s four works in this genre, Symphony No. 4 is the achievement of a young composer. In fact, it was his second symphony, which he composed in 1841, that is the same year as the First, and was intended as a birthday present for his wife Clara. Ten years later, the author made major revisions to the piece, which is more frequently performed in this second version. Its Romantic aura, subtle expression, and innovative integral form make Symphony No. 4 one of the composer’s greatest and most popular pieces.
The premiere performance of Jean Sibelius’ only concerto (Helsinki, February 1904) was not a success – the interpreter of the solo violin part, the respected pedagogue Victor Nováček, had very little time to master this difficult work and – according to the critics – failed in the task. The work was revised and performed once more (Karel Halíř) under the baton of Richard Strauss himself. However, this did not improve the work’s fortunes, which would only see an upturn later. Like Brahms’ earlier concerto, the Sibelius piece also highlights the special role of the orchestra as an equal partner of the soloist – in this case, however, the solo display is more prominent, which has made it a very appealing work for most eminent virtuosos.