Category Archives: Craig Blog

Schumann: Op. 15, no. 8: By the Fireside

Schumann Op. 15, no. 8 By the Fireside (Am Kamin)
A joyous burst of music making, By the Fireside is remarkable in that the thumbs are crossed during just about the entire piece. Don’t be surprised if you get a little claustrophobic during the coda; you may feel that there’s not enough room for both hands to play the notes you need to play! This feeling is heightened when you hold the two left hand Fs for the full two and a half counts as notated.

Schumann: Op. 15, no. 7: Reverie

Schumann Op. 15, no. 7 Reverie (Träumerei)
Horowitz said about Träumerei: “The idea that slow, lyrical music is easy to play is a common misconception.” One of the most famous pieces ever written, it certainly isn’t easy, but it is accessible to the intermediate pianist. Pay close attention to the note durations, and follow the melody when it dips into the lower voices during the middle phrases. Horowitz again: “It may look simple on the page, but it is a masterpiece.”

Schumann: Op. 15, no. 6: Important Event

Schumann Op. 15, no. 6 Important Event (Wichtige Begebenheit)
This piece has the character of a processional, albeit a rather quickly paced one. Be careful to slur the the chord on the third beat to the chord on the downbeat. Also note that the middle section is to be played louder than the outer ones. With the booming octaves in the left hand and the accents and volume indicated throughout, this is a true embodiment of Schumann’s fiery Florestan side.

Schumann: Op. 15, no. 5: Perfect Happiness

Schumann Op. 15, no. 5 Perfect Happiness (Glückes genug)
The companion piece of Pleading Child, Perfect Happiness provides sparkling contrast when played back to back. The octaves in the left hand give the piece a rich, full sound, but be careful not to let it become too bottom heavy; the melody must always sing out. This includes the measures where the melody is taken by the left hand (m. 2, 5, 10, 13, 18). If the tenth in measure 19 doesn’t fit your hand, play it like the grace notes in m. 5 and 15.

Schumann: Op. 15, no. 4: Pleading Child

Schumann Op. 15, no. 4 Pleading Child (Bittendes Kind)
Unless you’re comfortable ending a piece on a V7 chord, you should continue immediately into Perfect Happiness when performing. We’ll never know what the child is pleading for (an extra scoop of ice cream; a new toy; a pony, perhaps?), but they certainly get it once the page turns. It bears mentioning that Schumann went on record that he came up with the descriptive names after the pieces were written. Speaking about someone’s mistaken idea of the work, Schumann wrote: “I suppose he thinks I visualize a crying child and then try to find the right notes. Just the opposite is the case.” I find this piece, with its cascading harmonies, a perfect example of how naturally much of Schumann’s music rests in the hands.

Schumann: Op. 15, no. 3: Catch Me!

Schumann Op. 15, no. 3 Catch Me! (Hasche-Mann!)
Thirty-two seconds of pure excitement, Catch Me! is a wonderful excercise in playing staccato at a fast tempo. Do your best to observe the sforzando piano markings – a sudden, strong accent followed immediately by piano.

Schumann: Op. 15, no. 2: Curious Story

Schumann Op. 15, no. 2 Curious Story (Kuriose Geschichte)
I love the short lyrical section with its various strands of melody that slide up against one another as they search out the harmonies. It’s a great example of Schumann composing in a linear style with the use of inner voices. Carefully observing the correct note lengths will help determine your fingerings throughout the piece.

Schumann: Op. 15, no. 1: About Strange Lands and People

Schumann Op. 15, no. 1 About Strange Lands and People (Von fremden Ländern und Menschen)
I’m beginning my new project to record the Schumann, Op. 15 collection Scenes From Childhood. It begins with one of my very favorite pieces, About Strange Lands and People. Note that in the second measure it is very easy to do a finger substitution on the F sharp in the melody, from 4 to 5. That’s how I learned to do it, and I think that it feels very natural.

Schumann: Scenes From Childhood, Op. 15

Over the next month or so, I’ll be recording the thirteen pieces that make up Schumann’s Op. 15, Scenes From Childhood, or Kinderszenen. This collection is included in the MTAC syllabus for Level 7 & 8, so I thought it would be helpful to feature it here for my students, and others, who are preparing for the Certificate of Merit examination.

Kabalevsky: Op. 27, no. 30: Dramatic Event

Kabalevsky, Op. 27, no. 30 Dramatic Event
Well, it’s a wrap! Thirty pieces in 31 days. Kabalevsky ends his Op. 27 with this exciting and emotional piece. The dotted rhythm adds greatly to the overall drama, as does the amazing crescendo that begins at pianissimo in m. 27 and culminates in a powerful fortissimo on a beautiful D flat major chord in m. 48. Be careful not to get too loud too soon! Note that Kabalevsky writes in his own ritardando towards the end by simply elongating the note values (m. 66-70). A terrific piece to round out a great collection of music!

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San Jose Piano Teacher

Piano lessons are taught in my San Jose home, conveniently located near Willow Glen, Almaden, Evergreen, Santa Teresa, Campbell and Morgan Hill.

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