MTNA Session – The Performance Tradition and Pedagogical Relevancy of Robert Schumann’s Album for the Young

Following are my notes from the session: The Performance Tradition and Pedagogical Relevancy of Robert Schumann’s Album for the Young by Lora Deahl

A path-breaking collection of character pieces written by Schumann in 1848. 2006 marks the 150th anniversary of the death of Schumann. His Album for the Young was borne out of his deep affection for his children.

“I always tell my wife that it is not possible to have too many children. It is the greatest blessing on earth.” Most 19th century fathers tended to ignore their children or treat them as miniature adults. Schumann subscribed to enlightenment theories that likened children to delicate young plants. He took walks with them and spent time with them. He incorporated these feelings and ideals in his music.

“We shouldn’t make the mistake of dismissing this music as naïve.”

Clara Schumann considered the music sophisticated enough to program in concerts. They are appropriate repertoire for pianists of all ages.

Schumann was a man of duality.
• Florestan vs. Eusebius
• Incurable romantic vs. astute businessman
• Inward reflection vs. outer reality
• Esoteric music vs. accessible music
• Writer vs. composer
• French brilliance vs. Germanic solidity
• Catholic pageantry vs. protestant inwardness
• Glitzy salon music vs. the heartfelt simplicity of hausmusik
• Public music vs. private music
• Theatricality vs. inwardness
• Aristocratic privileges serious middle class values
• Virtuosic music vs. romantic music
• Melody vs. harmony
• Music as entertainment vs. music as education

Creating your own Cycles

Use smooth key relationships between adjacent pieces
You may begin and end in the same key
You may begin and end in different, but related keys
Have an overall tonal plan that will provide the structure for the entire cycle
Arrange pieces so that the end of one and the beginning of the next connect smoothly
Use recall to connect the beginning and endings of cycles
Half of the pieces should be by Florestan, half by Eusebius
Try ending your cycles quietly as if the subject of the story were falling asleep

Cast of Characters

Florestan
Eusebius
Master Raro
Clara
Marie, Eugenie, Laura

In one of the most creative sessions I attended, Lora Deahl shared a story she wrote (from her wealth of knowledge on this subject!) that included the above characters and excerpts [which she performed for us] from many of Schumann’s pieces in Album for the Young. She incorporated the history behind what led to the composition of certain pieces in her story dialogue. It was a very captivating and memorable presentation! If you are considering ordering recordings of any of the sessions, this would be a great one to listen to and would even be interesting listening for older students who are playing pieces from Schumann’s Album for the Young.

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