Category Archives: Schumann

Schumann: Op. 15, no. 13: The Poet Speaks

Schumann Op. 15, no. 13 The Poet Speaks (Der Dichter spricht)
Schumann ends his collection of childhood reflections on a solemn note. Still, an element of playfulness creeps in, as Schumann includes a quote from his earlier composition, Aufschwung (Soaring). It’s his way of saying, “I’m the poet”, which, of course, is true.

Schumann: Op. 15, no. 12: Child Falling Asleep

Schumann Op. 15, no. 12 Child Falling Asleep (Kind im Einschlummern)
When I play this piece, I hear two lovers singing to each other, the singers being the melodies in the left and right hand. Schumann reaches the heights of beauty in the last eight measures, as the lower voice fully echoes the upper voice and the melodies entwine around each other to the end.

Schumann: Op. 15, no. 11: Frightening

Schumann Op. 15, no. 11 Frightening (Fürchtenmachen)
Schumann indicated that he came up with the Kinderszenen titles after he’d written them. Certainly some titles seem to match the music better than others – the only thing I found frightening about this piece is how long it took to get a decent take! Schumann indicates the use of pedal, but, as usual, didn’t get specific. Be careful not to let the chromatic thirds in the left hand blur into one another due to over-pedaling. My Alfred Masterwork edition has a rather convoluted fingering for the più mosso section. I found the easier solution of initiating the sequence in m. 9 with the 4, as well as in m. 11.

Schumann: Op. 15, no. 10: Almost Too Serious

Schumann Op. 15, no. 10 Almost Too Serious (Fast zu ernst)
This piece is my favorite of the set – beautifully composed, and idiomatic of the piano in a special way that Schumann mastered so completely. Keep the melody as legato as possible, and observe the fermatas at the end of each phrase in order to allow the piece to breathe, just like a singer.

Schumann: Op. 15, no. 9: Knight of the Rocking Horse

Schumann Op. 15, no. 9 Knight of the Rocking Horse (Ritter vom Steckenpferd)
By accenting the third count of each measure, Schumann has vividly evoked the rocking horse of the title. My Alfred Masterwork edition mentions the interesting story of Ritter von Ritterstein, who, visiting with Clara Schumann in 1836, initially declined to hear her play Robert’s music, convinced that the composer would naturally play it better. I can’t imagine someone thinking that, much less having the gall to say it to Clara’s face! Perhaps von Ritterstein didn’t know that Clara Schumann was one of the supreme virtuosos of her day, but he understood once she began playing, and he promptly changed his tune.

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.

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