About Robert Schumann's Pieces for four hands
Schumann’s contributions to the four-hand repertory consist of several collections of short pieces. Except for 8 Polonaises written at the age of 17, before any of his published pieces, they were composed late in Schumann's career. None of these sets reach the level of mastery found in Schumann's greatest solo piano music, yet they all have typical Schumannesque qualities – warmth, vitality, catchy melodies, and exciting harmonies.
Pictures from the East, Op. 66, were written in 1848. They were inspired by the Arabian tales of the German poet, Friedrich Rückert, in turn based on an eleventh-century Arabic chronicle, Magamat, by Al-Hairi, relating the adventures of Abu Zayd, the Arabian counterpart of Till Eulenspiegel. However, no particular Eastern influences can be found in Schumann's music.
Twelve Pieces for Small and Big Childen, Op. 85, were composed a year later. Schumann was encouraged by the immediate popularity and success of the Album for the Young, Op. 68, to write a similar set for four hands. Written in 1851 and 1853 respectively, Ball Scenes, Op. 109, and Children’s Ball, Op. 130, are collections of dances. In Op. 109 these are framed by an opening ceremonial Preamble and concluding Promenade (titles also found earlier in Carnaval, Op. 9). The choice of Dances illustrates Schumann's interest in the foreign and exotic: Op. 109 includes a Polonaise, a Mazurka, an Ecossaise two Waltzes, an Hungarian Dance, and a Frangaise (a dance in 6/8 meter from southeastern France).