Schumann’s Album for the Young opens with an ethereal duet that meanders through heart-rending harmonies by its seamless flow of broken intervals and chords in the lower line. (The bass is intentionally composed in an alto range, and read in the left hand with a second treble clef, bringing the duet to poignance by its intended intimacy between lines.)
With a framing duo that primarily outlines parallel 6ths and 10ths, the left hand common tones in between beats enrich the sense of harmonic fullness and nudge the player toward an awareness of how various broken chord progressions affect phrasing and tapered resolutions. Besides harmonic consciousness, the player must sense the OUTLINE of the two-voice interaction as being an outer framing of the work.
Sequences (through Dominant Harmony) that rise in the B section, gradually ascend in sighing groups of three quarters notes to a high ‘A’ peak that launches a turnaround, in a gorgeous step-wise, heartfelt diminuendo. In this descent, the melody slips back to the Tonic opening theme with a revisit of its two measures followed by a modified Consequent or “Answer” that brings the phrase to rest. By comparison the very opening two measures of the composition, labeled the Antecedent, has an Answer or Consequent that progresses to a half-cadence on the DOMINANT. (G,B,D)
There are three repetitions of the very singable opening two measures, with responses to these being unmodified as to harmonic underpinning with the exception of the introductory statement that progresses, as mentioned, to a semi-cadence. The others journey to cadence in the Tonic (C chord underpinning) with subtle modified melodic strands in the Answer. (The piece moves with lilting two-measure impulses)
The use of a supple wrist and relaxed arms to create a lyrical singing tone is a primary ingredient in early practicing. Separating the hands, and designating a smooth fingering is a first step approach in a layering process that will include tracing the outline of the melodic thread against the fundamental lower voice notes, and then creating a chordal journey (filling in the after beats by spongy, sonorous blocks) Having featherlight thumbs through the lower line helps offset the tendency of common tones following primary beats to intrude as accents. And a wrist forward movement on these after beats not only cushions the fall, but creates a wavy, contoured phrasing.
In the video tutorial below, I identify a learning process that integrates elements of Romantic era lyricism through attentive listening and synthesized choreographies to realize the floating, flowing, singable dimension of “Melody.”