Schumann, Kinderscenen, Numbers 1, 3 and 11

  • Background Information & Performance Circumstances. 
  • Performing Forces and their Handling. 
  • General features. 
  • Structure
  • Tonality
  • Harmony
  • Melody 
  • Texture
  • Rhythm

Background Information & Performance Circumstances

  • Written in 1838. 
  • One of a number of piano miniatures, the title meaning 'Scenes from Childhood'.
  • From the Romantic period, a time of fundamental change in music, when music had extra-musical influences. 
  • Some of the possible extra-musical influences in this piece could have been his inherent instability of character, a sense of the dual personalities he created - Florestan and Eusebius - who were the reflective and the impetuous, and general emotions of disappointment related to his failed career as a vituoso pianist, his desperate love for his Clara, and his anger that they could not marry. 
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Performing Forces and their Handling.

  • The early Romantic period was a time of great change in piano construction. Particularly relevant to this piece are the invention of the iron frame, which would allower for greater resonance and sustaining power, and the use of felt to cover hammers rather than leather, which would alter the tone to a more mellow and less strident quality. 
  • Some aspects of the music reflects these changes, for example, the gentle melodic lyricism of number 1, or the vibrant sustained bass open fifths in number 3. 

Elements of Romantic era:

  • The three clearly identifiable textural layers in number 1. 
  • The importance of the sustained pedal, especially in number 1. 
  • The dramatic leaps between bass notes and chords in number 3. 
  • The chromatic melodic ascent within sustained chord in number 3. 
  • The close proximity of both hands at the start of number 11. 
  • The placement of the melody in the bass part of number 11, and off beat semiquaver chords as accompaniment. 
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General features.

  • Functional harmony and tonality. 
  • Melody dominated homophony. 
  • Simple rhythms. 
  • Diatonic melodies. 
  • Periodic phrasing. 
  • Clearly defined cadences. 
  • Modulation to related keys. 
  • Mainly diatonic harmony with occasional chromatic chords. 
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Structure and Tonality.

Structure and tonality in Number 1:

  • Rounded binary form (AABA). 
  • G major. 
  • Modulation to E minor in section B, but resolution to tonic is suprisingly avoided. 

Structure and tonality in Number 3:

  • Rounded binary form (AABA) with written out repeat of the opening four bars, but traditional notated repeat of the ensuing BA section. 
  • B minor. 
  • Modulation to G major in section B. 
  • Lengthy dominant preparation in bars 15-16. 

Structure and tonality in Number 11:

  • Symmetrical rondo form (ABACABA) with some sections repeated. 
  • Section A: E minor clearly suggested in opening progression, G major is established as tonic by bar 4. 
  • Section B:Modulation to E minor in bar 10, and sequentially, C major in bar 12. 
  • Section C: modulates through A minor, G major, B minor, E minor, C major, B major. 
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Number 1:

  • Perfect cadences, e.g bars 21-22. 
  • Chord 5 usually has a seventh added. 
  • Diminished seventh chord in bar 1, beat 2. 
  • Unusual progressions in section B, where there is no resolution to tonic E minor chord, but an unexpected shift to a G major triad.

Number 3:

  • Perfect cadences, e.g. bar 20. 
  • Appogiaturas in bar 2 (the accened semiquavers). 
  • Use of seventh chord, mainly dominant sevenths. 
  • Striking use of a prolonged Neopolitan chord in root position in bars 13-15, with the dissonant harmony on the second beat also creating a pedal effect. 
  • Leap of a tritone in the bass in bar 16. 
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Number 11:

  • Cadences are common but traditionally places root position perfect cadences are rare - the best example comes at the end, but this is a feminine cadence. 
  • Most perfect cadences close on weaker beats. 
  • A secondary dominant chord is used in bar 28. 
  • Imperfect cadences are frequent, e.g. in bars 4 and 8. 
  • There is chromatic harmony, for instance the opening two bars which inculde diminished triads on the second and fourth quavers of bar 2. 
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In Number 1:

  • Combinations of steps and leaps, including thematic feature of rising minor sixth leap, followed by stepwise descent, e.g. bars 1 and 2. 
  • Melodic sequence at start of B section, bars 9 to 12. 
  • Bass line is bars 9 to 12 borrows features from opening melody. 

In Number 3:

  • Combination of steps and leaps with much scalic passagework. 
  • Descending sequence in bar 2. 
  • Unusual descent of a minor seventh in bar 9. 

In Number 11:

  • Mainly diatonic, apart from chromaticism in first two bars of A section. 
  • B section has very disjunct bass melody, treated in sequence. 
  • The second half of the C section has a 2 bar phrase with semitone movement, treated in sequence. 
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In Number 1:

  • In section A: three textural layers - upper melody, inner quaver triplets, and independent bass line.
  • In B section: melody is played mainly in thirds, and bass line acts as countermelody. 

In Number 3:

  • Generally right hand melody is accompanied by 'stride bass' patterns in left hand. 
  • Exceptions in open 5th double pedal bars 13-15, sustained chord with inner ascending scale in bar 15. 

In Number 11:

  • A section: Opening feels like 3 part counterpoint, with lower parts descending in 3rds, by bar 4, reasonably independent parts have emerged, bar 5, melody dominated homophony established, tune in lower part. 
  • B section: bass tune with off beat chords above. 
  • C section: 3 contrasting textural elements alternate, rapid semiquaver movement in sixths, single bass notes, and full 5 part chords. 
  • Bass part in bars 25-28 uses stride like accompaniment similar to no. 3.
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In Number 1:

  • Triplets used in inner accompaniment. 
  • Melody features use of dotted rhythms.

In Number 3:

  • Much use of semiquavers. 
  • The same two bar rhythmic pattern occurs in the melody throughout, apart from brief deviations, and use of more sustained notes in bars 13-16.

In Number 11:

  • Dotted rhythm appear regularly in the A section. 
  • Elsewhere semiquavers are used either in pairs in the B section, or groups of four in the C section. 
  • Off beat rhythms feature, for example in the B section. 
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