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More on Carnaval Op9 by Schumann... (Read 18183 times)

Offline stokes

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More on Carnaval Op9 by Schumann...
« on: April 22, 2002, 11:38:07 PM »
What do you think about this piece? It is for sure a hilarious collection of pieces, but how serious minded do you think Schumann was when composing this piece? It includes several very beautiful pieces but some of them are "destroyed" by their dymanical markings, I think. Most clearly, the very beatiful "Chopin" that has all the sF's in the left hand. Was it just a way for Schumann to make fun of Chopin?? What about the other names in this carnaval. Where did he get them all from, except those several variations of Clara?
By the way....does any of you play the Sphinxes?

piano sheet music of Carnaval


Offline trunks

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Re: More on Carnaval Op9 by Schumann...
«Reply #1 on: April 07, 2004, 11:34:57 PM »
Fine music indeed. The Carnaval is a pleasure to listen to, if not practise!

I have always been wondering what Schumann had in mind while placing the grotesque-looking Sphinxes, using the long obsolete breves. I have yet to come across a recording artist who actually plays them.
Peter (Hong Kong)
part-time piano tutor
amateur classical concert pianist

Offline anda

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Re: More on Carnaval Op9 by Schumann...
«Reply #2 on: April 08, 2004, 01:44:43 PM »
i think the sphinxe is kind of impressionistic avant-la-lettre, and i had just about the same problems with mussorgski - catacombae. try to imagine how it would sound played by a whole brass-section... helped me.

Offline bernhard

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Re: More on Carnaval Op9 by Schumann...
«Reply #3 on: April 10, 2004, 03:24:03 AM »
“For you, the Dance of Masks will be a puzzle to decipher.”
Robert Schumann to Ignaz Moscheles

Schumann’s Carnaval is an extremely serious piece of music. I read somewhere a short story by Timothy Crouser that seems to encapsulate it all:

They went. While they were away, I attended a recital by Claudio Arrau. During the intermission I noticed Roberto, at the rail of one of the boxes, deep in conversation with a wiry, chignoned gamine. After the last encore, filing out of the auditorium, we ran into each other. He hesitated for a moment, then introduced his chum, the dancer.
         "What a terrific evening!" he said a bit too loudly.
         I concurred.
         "That Carnaval was a real treat," he rattled on. "Such a charming piece, isn't it?"
         At his next lesson he asked: "Why did you look at me that way when I said I liked his Carnaval?"
         "You called it charming."
         "Well, sure. Papillons and all that. You can't deny it's pretty stuff."
         "A cadaver comes up to you and wants to dance—you consider that charming?"
         "What are you talking about?"
         "Listen to Carnaval."

(Timothy crouse – Sphynxes)

Carnaval is at its most basic a musical game (quite common since Bach’s time).
If you think of a secret code, the most effective secret code is not some garbled message like the one below:

Rbglzmm hr nmd ne lx ezuntqhsd bnmonrdqr

However difficult to decipher, this is obviously a cipher. So it is just a matter of time before someone figures it out that the key is to replace each letter by the letter in the alphabet immediately to the right (so, R is actually S, b is actually c and so on). Once you figure this out, you get the message:

Schumann is one of my favourite composers.

A much more efficient code is to actually create a message that makes some sense and the real message is embedded in it:

Suddenly Carla heard Uri’s music across next night. It soothed old natural endings, old favourite memories. Yes, finally a vortex of ultimate riches invading the eerie compound. Oliver met Penelope on such excellent roads successfully.

Now if you take the first letter of each word, you get the same message again. But this time because the message is hidden in a text that has a superficial meaning, chances are that the code breaker will not suspect there is a message at all.

Because musical notes are named after alphabet letters, it is possible to embed messages in tones in exactly the same way. Bach used to “sign” his name in many of his pieces (in German B is actually Bb and H is B) and use to chuckle to himself at his “secret”.

Schumann brought this kind of game to new heights. Almost all of his pieces will have embedded messages in them, if one just cares to look for them. In many of his pieces he told us explicitly what he was doing. This is the case with Carnaval.

The Sphinxes hold the key. Schumann notated them but also gave directions that they should not be played. (Actually, Sigurd Slåttebrekk on his CD “Schumann Piano Music”[Simax] plays the Sphinxes. As far as I know he is the only one).

There are three sphynxes:

1.      SCHA (EbCBA)
2.      As CH (Ab C B)
3.      ASCH (A Eb CB)

In all of the 21 pieces they appear in one form or another (it is part of the fun to find out).

Why did he choose these notes/letters?

When he composed Carnaval, he was in love with Ernestine von Fricke (they actually got engaged), who came from the town of Asch, hence the letters. But by a fortuitous coincidence ASCH are also the only letters in SCHumAnn’s name which can be directly referred to pitches. Schumann took this as a sign that he and Ernestine were determined by fate to be together (how wrong can one be?)

Why is it called Carnaval?

Schumann did not care for simple programmatic music. He also believed in the autonomous existence of music, that is, he believed that music was not a reflection of life or emotions. He actually told Moschelles that the titles all occurred to him after he had composed the cycle. He said that he called it Carnaval because he had finished composing it during the carnival season.

What do the titles mean?

Preambule - Introduction
Pierrot – Comedia del arte figure (you would expect those at a carnival, but they also represent member of the David’s fellowship in disguise)
Arlequin – Comedia del arte figure
Valse noble – A waltz
Eusebius  - the meditative side of Schumann’s personality.
Florestan – the passionate and tempestuous side of Schumann’s personality
Coquette -
Replique -
Sphinxes – the basic motifs, inspired by Jean Paul Richter’s sphinxes moths
Papillons  -reference to Papillons (op. 2)
ASCH-SCHA: The dancing letters – the letters in Ernestine’s town and Schumann’s own name.
Chiarina – Clara (she was 15 then)
Chopin - Chopin
Estrella – (Ernestine, 17 then and to whom Schumann was secretly engaged)
Reconnaissance - Recognition
Pantalon et Colombine - comedia del arte figures
Valse allemande – German waltz
Paganini – Paganini
Aveu – Confession (revelation)
Promenade – a stroll
Pause – A restful moment
March of the Davidsbundler againt the Phillistines - The work culminates in the triumphal march of the Davidsbundler ("David's Fellowship") against the "Philistines" (that is, the opponents of the modern music of the day).

The setting is a fancy dress party. The different characters mingle and dance but everything is fragmentary. Their world is a world where nothing lasts for very long and where every event is soon interrupted by another. The cycle was conceived as a series of shocks alternating playfulness and fright. In Schumann’s own words:

The musical moods in carnival alternate too quickly for an audience to follow along without being startled at every moment.

Yet for all this anarchy, Carnival is structured and connected by two factors:

I The tonal organisation of the cycle around the key of Ab and the closely related keys of Eb, Cm and Bb. This is open for all to see

2. The other, hidden way to achieve coherence is the perception of links and similarities between different subjects. This is a feature of the literary works of Jean Paul Richter – Schumann’s favourite author -  so Schumann is trying to do the equivalent in music. Hence the sphinxes who serve as links between pieces. For instance they are easily recognisable in Papillons and ASCH - SCHA. In Pierrot it is hidden in the bass, in Eusebius it is embedded in the melodic line. Hence the musical quotes. They reveal the multiple levels that are the true mark of superior musicianship.

Schumann wrote:

“I am aware that my Carnaval is provocative; the heart of an artist is sometimes a strange thing, and the shrieking dissonances that life delivers are softened by reconciling art, which often clothes pleasures in long, dark veils, so that one may not see them openly”

Schumann was only 24 when he wrote Carnaval.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.

The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline allchopin

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Re: More on Carnaval Op9 by Schumann...
«Reply #4 on: April 10, 2004, 08:55:54 PM »
Quote
Was it just a way for Schumann to make fun of Chopin??

Schumann highly respected Chopin, as they were good friends.  The piece was actually a dedication.

And good job Berny! More than I'll ever need to know about Carnivals...
A modern house without a flush toilet... uncanny.

Offline bernhard

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Re: More on Carnaval Op9 by Schumann...
«Reply #5 on: April 10, 2004, 10:09:39 PM »
Quote

Schumann highly respected Chopin, as they were good friends.  The piece was actually a dedication.

And good job Berny! More than I'll ever need to know about Carnivals...


Thanks :D

You are right: Schumann highly respected Chopin, but apparently Chopin didn't care much for Schumann's music. Apparently Schumann sent Chopin a whole bunch of his pieces for Chopin's perusal, and Chopin never bothered to even open the package. :'(
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline jeff

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Re: More on Carnaval Op9 by Schumann...
«Reply #6 on: April 11, 2004, 06:38:53 AM »
Bernhard:
"The Sphinxes hold the key. Schumann notated them but also gave directions that they should not be played. (Actually, Sigurd Slåttebrekk on his CD “Schumann Piano Music”[Simax] plays the Sphinxes. As far as I know he is the only one). "


i have a recording of Simon Barere playing Carnival, and he plays the Sphinxes

Offline bernhard

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Re: More on Carnaval Op9 by Schumann...
«Reply #7 on: April 13, 2004, 02:22:17 AM »
Quote


i have a recording of Simon Barere playing Carnival, and he plays the Sphinxes


Thanks, Jeff. Do you know the label?
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline Motrax

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Re: More on Carnaval Op9 by Schumann...
«Reply #8 on: October 04, 2005, 12:35:21 AM »
Rachmaninoff not only plays the sphinxes, but he adds some harmonies and tremelos of his own to them.

(And thank you very much Bernhard, I've been listening to Carnaval a lot lately and thus a number of questions arose, all of which you answered superbly.)
"I always make sure that the lid over the keyboard is open before I start to play." --  Artur Schnabel, after being asked for the secret of piano playing.

Offline joell12068

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Re: More on Carnaval Op9 by Schumann...
«Reply #9 on: October 04, 2005, 01:33:32 AM »
Rachmaninoff not only plays the sphinxes, but he adds some harmonies and tremelos of his own to them.


I have Abbey Simon's recording and he also plays the sphinxes with tremolos.

Offline iumonito

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Re: More on Carnaval Op9 by Schumann...
«Reply #10 on: October 04, 2005, 02:33:40 AM »
Bernhard:
"The Sphinxes hold the key. Schumann notated them but also gave directions that they should not be played. (Actually, Sigurd Slåttebrekk on his CD “Schumann Piano Music”[Simax] plays the Sphinxes. As far as I know he is the only one). "


i have a recording of Simon Barere playing Carnival, and he plays the Sphinxes

Objection, hearsay.

Clara Schumann says Robert Schumann gave instructions not to play it.  Quite different.
Money does not make happiness, but it can buy you a piano.  :)

Offline bernhard

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Re: More on Carnaval Op9 by Schumann...
«Reply #11 on: October 06, 2005, 07:15:30 PM »
Objection, hearsay.

Clara Schumann says Robert Schumann gave instructions not to play it.  Quite different.

I agree. I don't think they should be played. They are like the "key" to the cypher, and are shown halfwaty through the set so as to give the performer a chance to work out the puzzle for himself.
                           
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline maxy

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Re: More on Carnaval Op9 by Schumann...
«Reply #12 on: October 06, 2005, 09:27:49 PM »
Thanks, Jeff. Do you know the label?

APR  Barere live in Carnegie hall 

Offline bernhard

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Re: More on Carnaval Op9 by Schumann...
«Reply #13 on: October 06, 2005, 09:31:22 PM »
APR  Barere live in Carnegie hall 

Thank you very much :D
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline mig

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Re: More on Carnaval Op9 by Schumann...
«Reply #14 on: October 08, 2005, 03:18:18 AM »
I think Anton Rubinstein supposedly played the Sphinxes.

Offline burstroman

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Re: More on Carnaval Op9 by Schumann...
«Reply #15 on: October 13, 2005, 12:18:58 AM »
Listen to Casadesus, (i think) play the finale, it finally made sense to me. 

Offline faulty_damper

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Re: More on Carnaval Op9 by Schumann...
«Reply #16 on: May 11, 2006, 08:14:25 AM »
Question about the Preambule:

Does anyone know which one of the Sphinxes is used and where?

Offline faulty_damper

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Re: More on Carnaval Op9 by Schumann...
«Reply #17 on: May 11, 2006, 09:04:19 AM »
To help fill in the missing explaination that Bernhard listed...

The Coquette (c.1797) is an epistolary novel by Mrs Hannah Webster Foster about a flirt, whose behaviour inevitably ruins her life.  So Coquette is a flirtatious woman.

Replique (Fr), meaning a reply is the reply to the Coquette.

Offline kriskicksass

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Re: More on Carnaval Op9 by Schumann...
«Reply #18 on: May 11, 2006, 11:55:08 PM »
Totally off-topic, but does anyone know what Abbey Simon recorded or how I could get those recordings? He was my teacher's teacher, and I think it'd be cool to hear him.

Offline mikey6

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Re: More on Carnaval Op9 by Schumann...
«Reply #19 on: May 12, 2006, 12:03:25 AM »
It includes several very beautiful pieces but some of them are "destroyed" by their dymanical markings, I think. Most clearly, the very beatiful "Chopin" that has all the sF's in the left hand. Was it just a way for Schumann to make fun of Chopin??

I don't think an sF can 'destroy' a piece! It depends on how you pla iy, it doesn't necessarily have to be hammered, there's a milliom and 1 ways to play anything on the pi-ana.
Never look at the trombones. You'll only encourage them.
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Offline bugsthecat

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Re: More on Carnaval Op9 by Schumann...
«Reply #20 on: May 26, 2009, 11:01:51 PM »
In the 1947 film, POSESSED starring Joan Crawford and Van Heflin.  Van Heflin plays a passage from Carnival Opus #9.  Does anyone know which one?  It's absolutely gorgeous,and central to her character as an unstable woman.