Learning from Schumann’s op.82, no. 5

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!

Schumann example 1 - bar 3It’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.

Schumann example 2 - appogiaturasThis 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).

Schumann example 3 - end

 

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