“Of Foreign Lands and People,” is the lyrical opener to Schumann’s Kinderszenen, Op. 15 (“Scenes from Childhood,”) but the composer’s metronome marking, 108 to the quarter, makes it a challenge to spin poetic lines, though Seymour Bernstein rises to the occasion in his memorable reading.
“Concerning Metronome indications, I personally never observe them simply because they have been proven to be inaccurate. They do however give us a general feeling of slow to fast. Beyond that, we choose our own tempo.
“… And various playings prove beyond measure that there is no such a thing as a definitive tempo for anything. It only depends on how the performer projects the essence of music according to his or her tempo choices.”
Horszowski follows with very brisk phrases, keeping pace with Schumann’s MM.
Martha Argerich, seems to pull back a bit and plies her phrases. (significantly more rubato than Bernstein and Horszowski)
Horowitz puts his personal Romantic autograph on it–nice, broad dynamic range, tasteful rubato–while still moving the piece along..
Lang Lang plays more directly, with a fairly slow, steady tempo, though he observes the composer’s ritardando(s) in the second section
Here’s my own reading in a moderate tempo
The question remains, are musicians wedded to the composer’s metronome marking and dynamics? The above posted performances reveal a variety of tempos and interpretations. Depending on one’s musical tastes, one or another reading may be pleasing to the ears.
LINK: Pianist, MURRAY PERAHIA speaks about Kinderszenen, and offers playing samples on NPR
Here’s what he says about tempo choices:
“Tempos are a sticky topic when it comes to Kinderszenen. Perahia readily admitted that he likes to play some of the pieces a little faster than usual. Schumann left specific metronome markings that few pianists, he says, seem to follow. For Perahia, slow tempos give too much adult sensibility to a work that he feels should always be approached from the viewpoint of a child.”
About KINDERSZENEN (Wikipedia)
“Kinderszenen (German pronunciation: [ˈkɪndɐˌst͡seːnən]; original spelling Kinderscenen, “Scenes from Childhood”), Opus 15, by Robert Schumann, is a set of thirteen pieces of music for piano written in 1838. In this work, Schumann provides us with his adult reminiscences of childhood. Schumann had originally written 30 movements for this work, but chose 13 for the final version. Robert Polansky has discussed the unused movements.”