Robert Schumann Kinderszenen, op. 15
Radu Lupu , January 1993
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
First edition title page
Kinderszenen (German pronunciation: [ˈkɪndɐˌst͡seːnən]; original spelling Kinderscenen, “Scenes from Childhood”), Opus 15, by Robert Schumann, is a set of thirteen pieces of music for piano written in 1838. In this work, Schumann provides us with his adult reminiscences of childhood. Schumann had originally written 30 movements for this work, but chose 13 for the final version. Robert Polansky has discussed the unused movements.
Nr. 7, Träumerei, is one of Schumann’s best known pieces; it was the title of a 1944 German biographical film on Robert Schumann. Träumerei is also the opening and closing musical theme in the 1947 Hollywood film Song of Love, starring Katharine Hepburn as Clara Wieck Schumann.
Schumann had originally labeled this work Leichte Stücke (Easy Pieces). Likewise, the section titles were only added after the completion of the music, and Schumann described the titles as “nothing more than delicate hints for execution and interpretation”. Timothy Taylor has discussed Schumann’s choice of titles for this work in the context of the changing situation of music in 19th century culture and economics.
In 1974, Eric Sams noted that there was no known complete manuscript of Kinderszenen.
- Von fremden Ländern und Menschen (Of Foreign Lands and Peoples), G major
- Curiose Geschichte (A Curious Story), D major
- Hasche-Mann (Blind Man’s Buff), B minor
- Bittendes Kind (Pleading Child), D major
- Glückes genug (Quite Happy), D major
- Wichtige Bebebenheit (An Important Event), A major
- Träumerei (Dreaming), F major
- Am Camin (At the Fireside), F major
- Ritter vom Steckenpferd (Knight of the Hobby-Horse), C major
- Fast zu ernst (Almost too Serious), G-sharp minor
- Fürchtenmachen (Frightening), E minor
- Kind im Einschlummern (Child Falling Asleep), E minor
- Ffrom Der Dichter spricht (The Poet Speaks), G major
The 13 pieces that constitute Robert Schumann‘s Kinderszenen for piano (Scenes from Childhood), Op. 15 (1838) showcase their creator’s musical imagination at the peak of its poetic clarity. As a result, the Kinderszenen have long been staples of the repertoire as utterly charming yet substantial miniatures, the sort of compact keyboard essays in which Schumann‘s genius found full expression. Kinderszenen was one of the projects Schumann worked on during the spring of 1838 to get through a difficult period of separation from his fiancée, Clara Wieck, who was on tour as a pianist and whose father objected to the idea of her marriage to the composer. In March of that year, Schumann wrote to Clara, “I have been waiting for your letter and have in the meantime filled several books with pieces…. You once said to me that I often seemed like a child, and I suddenly got inspired and knocked off around 30 quaint little pieces…. I selected several and titled them Kinderszenen. You will enjoy them, though you will need to forget that you are a virtuoso when you play them.” The Kinderszenen are a touching tribute to the eternal, universal memories and feelings of childhood from a nostalgic adult perspective; unlike a number of Schumann‘s collections of piano character pieces (e.g. Album for the Young, Op. 68), the Kinderszenen are not intended to be played by children. Schumann claimed that the picturesque titles attached to the pieces were added as an afterthought in order to provide subtle suggestions to the player, a model Debussy followed decades later in his Preludes. Almost all of the Kinderszenen are miniature ternary (ABA) forms. Scene No. 1, “Von fremden Ländern und Menschen” (Of Foreign Lands and People), opens with a lovely melody whose basic motivic substance, by appearing in several vague guises throughout many of the other pieces, serves as a general unifying element. The seventh Scene, “Träumerei” (Reverie), is easily the most famous piece in the set; its charming melody and quieting power have recommended it to generations of concert pianists who wish to calm audiences after a long series of rousing encores. The Kinderszenen contain many delicate musical touches; Scene No. 4, “Bittendes Kind” (Pleading Child), for example, is harmonically resolved only when an unseen force (a parent?) gives in and grant the child’s wish at the beginning of No. 5, “Glückes genug” (Quite Happy). In the final piece, “Der Dichter spricht” (The Poet Speaks), Schumann removes himself just a bit from the indulgent reverie to formulate a narrator’s omniscient view of the child. Quietly, gently, the many moods and feelings that Schumann touched upon over the course of this remarkable 20-minute work are lovingly recalled, and the composition concludes, contentedly, in the same key of G major in which it began.