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 both 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 than directly imitating or copying it.
The realisation in the video score is clearly not as nuanced as a live performance. Pianists should approach playing the Study in Canon No.4 with a lightness in the hands ensuring that there is clarity in their understanding of the musical texture. 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 72 eighth (quaver) notes to the minute in the first section from bar 1 to 19 and then 80 eighth notes for the remainder of the movement with the occasional slowing down or rit. The performance practice associated with the Study in Canon No. 4 also varies adding further interest to the music’s study. The score detail in place in the sheet music score is particularly relevant to the tonal qualities of modern instruments. 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 pianists playing through each of 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 detail and the chromatic detail. The mordents have been written out in the video score although the music editor suggests omitting the small decorative/ornamental notes in the early stages of learning the movement. The uses of the sustaining pedal whilst recommended has not been indicated in the sheet music score. The small decorative notes in the turns in bars 17, 19 and 65 do not sound in the video score or realisation. Pianists will need to ensure that the 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. Players may well wish to make use of the piano sustaining pedal although its use has not been indicated in the sheet music score. The accompaniment downloads available enable players to enjoy an ensemble music experience playing either the Piano 1 or Piano 2 part. The Piano 1 sounds on the one side of the stereo channel channel and the Piano 2 on the other. Accompaniment 1 plays at 68 eighth (quaver) note beats to the minute in the first section and then 72 eighth (quaver) note beats to the minute. Accompaniment 2 plays at 72 eighth (quaver) note beats to the minute in the first section and then 80 eighth (quaver) note beats to the minute. Accompaniment 3 plays at 76 eighth (quaver) note beats to the minute in the first section and 88 eighth (quaver) note beats to the minute. Accompaniment 4 plays at 80 eighth (quaver) note beats to the minute in the first section and 90 eighth (quaver) note beats to the minute. Accompaniment 5 plays at 84 eighth (quaver) note beats to the minute in the first section and 92 eighth (quaver) note beats to the minute. There is a two bar eighth note (quaver) count in to the sound of a woodblock. In a performance situation printing two pages of music onto one side of A4 offers a practical solution for players.