blog, Kinderszenen, piano, piano blog, piano blogging, piano instruction, piano technique, Robert Schumann, Shirley Kirsten

Untangling hands and subduing AFTER beats in Robert Schumann’s music

When a pianist tackles a piece like “Am Kamin,” (“At the Fireplace”) from Schumann’s signature childhood reminiscence, Kinderszenen, he/she must artfully navigate the musical terrain, avoiding hand pile-ups and after-beat pounding.

A gorgeous Romantic era, lyrical melody that threads though this tableau can be at risk– easily interrupted or jarred by offbeats that contain parcels of harmonic enrichment. They are not meant to offset horizontal movement of phrases.

On a technical level, overlapping hands and fingers sharing common notes between the hands, pose a second significant challenge to the piano learner.

He must decide after considerable separate hand practice what fingers of either hand can ease the burden of a joint undertaking by taking singular responsibility. (Where it applies)

Am Kamin

And that’s how my video tutorial evolved– from a personal, painstaking journey to AVOID pain and obtain the most pleasurable learning and playing experience possible.

8 thoughts on “Untangling hands and subduing AFTER beats in Robert Schumann’s music”

  1. Re Schumann’s “Am Kamin”: I originally learned this piece from a Schirmer edition in which the editor had edited out all the hand-crosses. He retained all the notes, but just re-sorted them so that the right hand had the two upper notes of the chord and the left hand the two lower notes. At the time, I didn’t know otherwise. Then I lost that book and purchased an Urtext edition, probably the same one you are using. I have a terrible time “seeing” how to play the sheet music when you have to cross the hands like that. I will probably have to find another copy of the Schirmer edition, or key in the piece using music-score software. But my question is: Does it really make any difference? Will it sound any different? What do you think the purpose of writing it with the hand crossings was?


    1. I will definitely revisit and respond –In general I like to track voices in a texture, which to some extent factors into fingering/dividing hands.. but I need to re-examine the score tomorrow and assess based on your thoughtful inquiry..


  2. So I took out my Urtext edition and noted that the score itself, does have such a division of the hands in many measures where the hands overlap.. Now the decision to follow the stemming so that one adheres to this division, though possibly awkward for many players, may have other options. You may try to re-score your hands to see if you can still keep the soprano voice prominently carrying the melodic thread without being compromised by a finger reshuffling of lower voices. Any pianist can devise an individual fingering that works for him/her as long as the balance of voices and any counterpoint in the inner voices are preserved. Fingering can conceivably be “musical” or conversely, it can cause unwanted accents, and bumpy phrases. Experimentation with finger options is recommended. So to answer your original question, changing fingering definitely can alter phrasing–for the positive or for the negative.


    1. Thank you for your helpful comments. Yes, the important thing is to ensure that the melody remains distinct — and that the afterbeat doesn’t come out sounding like a part of the melody.

      Your post was the only commentary on “Am Kamin” I could find on the entire Internet. I’m glad I found your site — lots to explore.


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