Follow a paper score by printing pages 7 and 8 of this document.
Though a long-time Schumann fan, I have only recently discovered this piece whilst leafing through a friend’s piano music collection in search of something I might be able to sight read. Needless to say: I couldn’t. Nonetheless, stumbling through the opening bars, I was as impressed as ever at Schumann’s use of minimal textures and predictable harmonic direction to create something genuinely intriguing. Freundliche Landschaft (‘friendly landscape’) may be a straightforward, deliberately playable piano miniature with nothing outlandish about it, but that’s precisely why its expressive accomplishments are so impressive. I strongly encourage students, teachers and lovers of music to give a few moments’ consideration to this worthy gem, and I hope my own thoughts are a helpful starting point to do so.
Long appoggiaturas in Freundliche Landschaft
This brief and deliberately limited analysis focuses on the use of long appoggiaturas as a key theme of this piece. I’m sure there’s much more to be said about it; your comments are encouraged!
It’s this chord (left) which first peaked my interest. At face value, it’s nothing special; the tonic note (B-flat) clashes within the dominant chord before resolving to its third in a written-out appoggiatura. This is perhaps the most common dissonance and resolution in all of music, and there’s rarely a baroque work without it. It’s even less surprising if you know that Schumann reputedly studied Bach quite obsessively. Yet it carries disproportionate weight for a number of reasons, probably not limited to:
a) it presents a stark rhythmic contrast to the previous rushing quavers;
b) it ‘holds up’ a cycle of 5ths from D-minor (upbeat) to G-major (bar 1) to C-minor (bar 2) to F-minor (bars 3&4); and
c) it is part of a 4-note falling fragment, breaking a pattern of sequential 4-note rising fragments.
This simple resolving dissonance having been brought so clearly to the listener’s attention, it continues as a point of interest throughout the piece. In the repeated first section (bars 4 to 20), three clear re-workings of bars 3-4, shown in the diagram to the right, punctuate the otherwise-consistent quaver motion. Disregarding the octave leap between the second and third excerpt, the notes used in these fragments collectively form descent from B-flat to F (tonic to dominant) that coincides with a modulation to F-major at the end of this section; an interrelationship of long-term line and harmony that likely betrays more of Bach’s influence.
The rest of the piece shows the same ‘appoggiatura’ idea in yet more contexts, notably:
- The reharmonisation of the original ‘B-flat–>A’ appoggiatura in bars 27-8, where the bass line is a transposed inversion of the same idea, forming an imperfect cadence that leads to a D-major chord which replaces the upbeat bar to start a reprisal of the opening (bars 28-32) and strengthens that passage’s cycle of 5ths.
- Bars 36-37, where the minim is doubled at the third, metrically displaced to begin at the half bar and the motif harmonised to produce a perfect cadence.
- The final phrase (below), in which a perfect cadence is interrupted by a minim’s-worth of suspended dissonance (under bracket A) before resolution (bracket R).