Monday, December 23, 2013

Schumann: Arabeske

Here is a truly puzzling piece, perhaps for that reason given that title.

A young musician asked me once why the bass notes are staccato in only part of the A section.  Interesting question, especially in the light of standard performances of this work, in which beats are accented, both top and bottom.  If read properly, i.e., in the manner of the notated articulations, however, and in the light of Schumann's lifelong fascination with beats that precede themselves, so to speak, and if played truly pianissimo, as indicated, the relation between top and bottom is completely transformed.  The staccato notes simply emphasize that point of clarification.

In the contrasting sections various contrasts are stated, also loud (i.e., forte and fortissimo) and clear, with beats shared equally by the two hands.

People who heard my performance of the Arabeske last night were astonished at how much more interesting this was than the standard interpretations with which they are all too familiar.  I could never get interested in it played in the conventional manner.  This way, however, I can't begin to describe how fascinating it is.