Explained using the 5-4-3-2-1 Method

Duration: 17–20 Minutes
Genre: Piano Cycle
Time of Creation: 1837–1838
World Premiere: Unknown

Table of Contents

Schumann's Kinderszenen in 5 Sentences

Robert Schumann’s Kinderszenen are thirteen short piano pieces linked by the motif of “childhood.” It is important to note, however, that with the Kinderszenen (which are quite challenging in places technically) Schumann was not writing a work for children, but creating a work about childhood. This approach coincides with the often transfiguring and idealizing depiction of childhood in the Romantic period, which can also be observed in literature and painting. All the pieces in the cycle have descriptive titles, which Schumann assigned primarily to aid interpretation. In the course of the cycle, “typically romantic” themes such as longing, personal withdrawal, and melancholy are presented musically.

Note: This work belongs to the Classical Music Top 100.

4 Highlights from Schumann's Kinderszenen

Highlight 1: Of Foreign Lands and People

This is the first piece in the cycle, and is also often heard as an encore in concerts:

Highlight 2: An Important Event

One of many examples of how vividly Schumann expresses certain motives musically. One can literally hear the bugles announcing the “important event”:

Highlight 3: Dreaming

This is the most famous piece from Schumann’s Kinderszenen. Just like the first piece of the cycle, it is also very popular as an encore:

Highlight 4: The Poet Speaks

The last piece of the Kinderszenen begins with a four-part chorale. This kind of music is actually known from the church. Schumann thus makes it clear here that the Kinderszenen, for all their “childishness,” also carry a religious message: musical poetry is only possible through divine inspiration.

3 Questions and Answers about Schumann's Kinderszenen

Question 1: What is the most famous piece by Robert Schumann?

The „Dreaming“ (“Träumerei”) from the Kinderszenen is often called the most famous piece by Robert Schumann.

Question 2: What are the names of the individual pieces from the Kinderszenen?

1) Of Foreign Lands and People
2) A Curious Story
3) Blind Man’s Bluff
4) Pleading Child
5) Happy Enough
6) An Important Event
7) Dreaming
8) At the Fireside
9) Knight of the Hobbyhorse
10) Almost Too Serious
11) Frightening
12) Child Falling Asleep
13) The Poet Speaks

Question 3: How was Schumann feeling when he wrote the Kinderszenen?

The Kinderszenen were written during a phase in which Robert Schumann was quite optimistic about the future. For example, he was expecting to marry Clara Schumann. The two also exchanged letters about the Kinderszenen.

2 Recommended Recordings of Schumann's Kinderszenen

Recording 1: Cyprien Katsaris (Live, 1989)

I hold this recording by French pianist Cyprien Katsaris in very high regard. Katsaris is comparatively on the slow side in terms of tempo, but he works out the various layers of Schumann’s composition very vividly. This becomes clear, for example, right at the beginning (from 0:26), when Katsaris emphasizes the middle voice:

Recording 2: Anna Vinnitskaya (Live, 2017)

In contrast to Katsaris, Russian pianist Anna Vinnitskaya focuses more on equal presentation of the various layers, but also chooses a brisker tempo:

1 Quote about Schumann's Kinderszenen

In the Kinderszenen [...] that grace is revealed, that naiveté which always hits the right note, that spiritual trait which often touches us so peculiarly in children and, while their credulity elicits a smile from us, at the same time embarrasses us by the astuteness of their questions – a trait which is also to be found in the beginnings of the culture of peoples and forms that tone of imaginative simplicity which awakens the desire for the wonderful.

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