I’ve written before about losing my way whilst playing at a National Trust house on their expensive Steinway and Sons, because I didn’t have any sheet music with me. Since then it occurred to me that I should really learn something off by heart. If you read my last post you’d know that recently I’ve been doing just that with the Schumann piece Träumerei. I was first introduced to it by the fellow blogger (and much better pianist) PapayaPieces. And I absolutely love it.
Written by Robert Schumann in 1839 as part of his piece Kinderscenen. It is probably his most famous work from that collection. Scholars believe that there were originally 30 pieces; however the final Kinderscenen was published with only 13, of which Träumerei is number 7. It is usually translated to English as ‘dreaming’. Even though it is seemingly a ‘simple’ piece it is one favoured by many of the greats. Vladimir Horowitz often played it as his encore piece, and I see that some of the current crop of concert pianists such as Valentina Lisitsa and Lang Lang also use it for encores.
There’s a bit of controversy surrounding the piece in relation to the speed. To quite a few a scholars everyone is currently playing the piece too slowly. To look at the original sheet music you’ve got to say they have a point. Schumann marked it with a metronome speed of 100 quarter notes per minute. However the current tradition is to play it at around 80 per minute. This has come from an edition of Kinderscenen that was published 50 years after the original, by Schumann’s then widow Clara, who clearly preferred the slower place. Now was this her own personal preference?, was it that she knew that he changed his mind and liked it slower?, was it that the original markings were a publishing mistake?, or was it, as some have suggested, a result of Schumann’s metronome being faulty? There is a recording from 1929 by one of Clara’s students that plays it at 76. Whatever Robert Schumann’s original intentions were, we will clearly never know for certain. I’ve heard it played at the faster speed and much as I love to be contrary I have to say I prefer the slower pace favoured by almost everyone else. Maybe this is because we are all conditioned to play it at the same speed that we first heard it ourselves or maybe it truly lends itself to this pace.
I have recorded my very own version of the piece which you can hear here:
Look no sheet music! It’s not perfect, but I do get nervous with you all watching me so please excuse any mistakes you spot. If you are wondering why it is in black and white; that is because I recorded it at night so the picture was slightly grainy, and therefore looked a bit better this way. Please feel free to critique it, I promise I won’t unfollow anyone ;). I’ll probably already agree with any criticism. Hopefully though you’ll like it, and if like me the piece was new to you then I’m happy to have passed the piece on.