Monday, April 27, 2015

To be continued...

Before I say farewell to Schumann's Kinderscenen, or the concert on which I played it, I would like to point out one more fascinating feature about the set of 13 pieces, one more reason that they all seem like they belong to the same set of pieces.

Last week, when I played them live, I did so without interrupting the set with any commentary (as I did later on between some of the Satie pieces). It wasn't just because they are serious pieces, and any piece of standard classical or "serious" music should not--by rule, or custom, or just to separate the know-it-alls from the rest of you rubes-- be interrupted with either commentary or applause (though that is often the case). There is a better reason, and that is that Schumann has created a unified set, in which, by often using the same or similar musical ideas in the various pieces (as we've already discussed) the shifting moods still seem part of the same package. But it isn't just a top-down unity at work here, either. Often the thought seems to continue itself from piece to piece. There may be contrast: relief from the mood of the previous piece; or the next piece may seem to elaborate on the one before (in which case, they really are "pieces" of a whole). Sometimes the end of one piece even melts into the next. For example, the ends of the fourth piece and the 12th are both suspended in the air on chords that don't sound finished. The fourth piece even ends with a V7 chord, the musical equivalent of ending a sentence with

You get the idea. I'm not finished yet. And neither was Schumann.

For those who are not proficient in theory-ese, a V7 chord is the kind of chord that introduces musical tension that must be resolved. It is a tiny little "whodunit" in music, setting up a question that can only be answered by the chord that follows. Also, if you are a musician, and someone walks by a piano and plays a V7 chord without resolving it, it can drive you crazy.

That's what I've heard, anyway.

Once, when I was in grad school, I walked into class, past the piano and played said V7 chord without resolving it, just to observe my fellow student's reactions. It did really get to some of the them. So I went back to the piano and played a new chord which, while resolving the chord, did not do what they expected (for theorists: I redefined the V7 chord as a German augmented sixth chord and resolved it accordingly). I was really hilarious in music school. It's a wonder I didn't get a piano dropped on me.

I'll drive my point home by leaving you with the complete fourth piece from the set, which, as I mentioned, ends on a completely unresolved chord. If you wish to be put out of your misery and continue on to the fifth piece, might I recommend going to the music archives here (it'll take you right to the Schumann) and listening to said fifth piece. You can do a similar experiment with the last two pieces, stopping the play button for at least ten seconds to get the feeling of not being musically gratified. Once you can't take it anymore, hit the play button on the last piece.

Schumann: Kinderscenen: IV. Pleading Child

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