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Robert Schumann (1810-1856)

Kinderszenen Op.15 (Scenes of Childhood)

1. Von fremden Ländern und Menschen (Of foreign Lands and People)
2. Kuriose Geschichte (Funny Story)
3. Hasche-Mann (Catch me if you can!)
4. Bittendes Kind (Pleading Child
5. Glückes genug (Happy enough)
6. Wichtige Begebenheit (Important Event)
7. Träumerei (Dreaming)
8. Am Kamin (By the Fireside)
9. Ritter von Steckenpferd (Knight of the Hobby-horse)
10. Fast zu ernst (Almost too serious)
11. Fürchtenmachen (Frightening)
12. Kind im Einschlummern (Child falling asleep)
13. Der Dichter spricht (The Poet speaks)

Schumann composed thirty piano miniatures early in 1838 and selected a baker’s dozen to make this poetic set for his 18-year-old future wife, Clara, long to be renowned as the greatest woman pianist of her day. ‘You will be very pleased with them,’ he wrote, ‘but you will have to forget that you are a virtuoso.’ He gave the set its title and admitted that ‘a few children’s heads were hovering around me as I composed’, but the individual titles were added later and meant, he said, as nothing more than gentle pointers.

The simple opening Andantino in G, a ‘once upon a time’ introduction, precedes a piece containing figures that may suggest chuckles. The playful scamper of Catch me if you can! is contrasted with the half earnest Pleading Child, and this is followed without break by a picture of lively contentment. Pompous chords stress the importance of the event in the next piece, Allegro deciso in A. Dreaming, one of Schumann’s most famous pieces, evokes with expressive musical poetry his secret world of fantasy. After the cheerful Fireside interlude there come the bright C major gallop of the hobby-horse number, the G minor Moderato of Almost too serious, and in Frightening some incursions of the bogeyman. The penultimate piece is a picture of drowsiness in E minor and major, and the set ends with a calm, expressive Adagio in the original key of G.

© Eric Mason

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