This is an early work in Schumann's output, begun when the 23-year-old composer was engaged to marry Ernestine von Fricken and finished when he had begun romancing 15-year-old virtuoso pianist Clara Wieck, who would become his wife in 1840. Published anonymously under the names of Florestan and Eusebius (alter egos adopted for the art world by the eccentric Schumann), this sonata is cast in four movements, its large outer panels (each over 11 minutes) framing short inner movements.
The first movement opens with a lengthy but quite lovely introduction marked Un poco adagio, where the main theme from the second movement is augured in the second subject. The main section (Allegro vivace) ensues, featuring a lively, fiery theme based on Schumann's 1832 Fandango in F sharp minor, a piece that also provided a springboard for Clara's Le ballet des revenants. A richly Romantic alternate theme soon appears, its slower tempo and sensual manner offering deft contrast. After a repeat of the main materials, a stormy, brilliantly colorful development section follows, with an abbreviated, melancholy reprise then closing out the movement.
The ensuing Aria is very brief, but filled with feelings of romance and passion in the aforementioned main theme, which now flowers to utter beauty. Next comes the Scherzo, which features a jumpy, quirky melody and calmer second subject in the outer sections, surrounding a stately bright Intermezzo that exhibits the influence of Chopin.
The finale (Allegro un poco maestoso) is a rondo brimming with melodic material, the first theme a stately creation coming in rapid, repeating chords, the next having a more subdued but still lively manner. Thereafter, the movement alternates between the blustery and the reflective, moods that supposedly reflect Schumann's alter egos -- Florestan (restless, disruptive) and Eusebius (contemplative). The sonata closes with a brilliantly virtuosic coda.