The Studies in Canon Opus 56 of Schumann are perfect pieces for the music student because they refer to the past with the chromatic language of the romantic period and are ordered and appealing music to play. The Opus 56 collection can be appreciated on so many levels and the pieces exist in a number of different arrangements. This is music that re-invents J.S.Bach style rather than directly imitating or copying it.
The texture is straightforward in that there are two melodies exploring the canonic and imitative aspects of the music, a chordal accompaniment and a bass line. The realisation plays at 68 eighth (quaver) notes to the minute in the first section from bar 1 to 19 and then 72 eighth notes for the remainder of the movement with the occasional slowing down or rit. Managing the tempo through the playing of the whole piece is one of the challenges of a performance and more than one approach can be employed. The dynamic range is an additional aspect of the performance that can be explored. It is necessary to have an understanding of the strong chromatic element in the music which is particularly evident in the bass line and the chordal accompaniment. There is value in organists playing through the lines to understand the imitation processes that are incorporated in the score. The music included in Robert Schumann’s Opus 56 collection has been arranged by Georges Bizet for piano duet and Claude Debussy for two pianos and in these arrangements the composing principles of canon and imitation aspects are much easier to explore. Players need to pay attention to the rhythmic and chromatic detail. The mordents have been written out in the video score whilst the small decorative notes in bars 17, 19 and 65 do not sound. In the video score each line of music is associated with a stave and so the music is presented slightly differently to how it appears in the sheet music score. The video score plays at 72 quaver beats from bar 1 – 18 and and then in the piu mosso section at 80 eighth notes (quaver) to the minute. Organists will need to ensure that their reading of the notes and accidentals is accurate as the chromatic element in the movement is strong . There is opportunity to explore tempo rubato in a performance. In romantic music this refers to the give and take (speeding up and slowing down) as far as tempo is concerned.