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Intermediate Level Piano Repertoire: Album for the Young by Robert Schumann

I took a musical journey down memory lane yesterday, rekindling scenes of childhood as I read through a set of “old” Romantic era compositions. These weren’t Robert Schumann’s illustrious KINDERSZENEN, but colorful character pieces wrapped into the composer’s Album for the Young Op. 68. (As I’ve said time and again, why give students arrangements of popular classics, when they can have dessert rolled into original manuscripts) Schumann, Burgmuller, Kabalevsky, Tchaikovsky, and Shostakovich, among others, all composed enticing pieces with a strong teaching dimension.

Schumann’s “The Wild Rider,” No. 8, is a well-spring of staccato learning. The treble (A section) opens with a punctuated theme against crisp chords in the bass, while voices are inverted in the middle (B) section. Sudden accents (sFzs) amidst slurred notes in a pervasive staccato landscape are a challenge, but students learning in layers, with a slow tempo framing, will advance.

The Wild Rider

Randall Faber, Piano Adventures creator, presented a forum on how to practice The Wild Rider.

He recommended that a student first play phrases legato using a wrist rotation where applicable, and then transition to staccato. I often enlist this technique in my own practicing, then pass it down to my pupils. (I say, “clip” or “snip” your legato passages into STACCATO)

In “The Wild Rider,” however, the staccato is not as clear as it could be when Faber releases the legato to the scored staccato articulation, so perhaps more of an injection of crisp energies (in vertical doses, especially on the indicated accents-“sf”-would be an effective, though modified approach)

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Finally, here are THREE additional Album for the Young selections:

“First Sorrow” and “Sicilienne” reveal Schumann’s polarized personalities. He had two autographed personae in his famous Carnaval. (Eusebius–the dreamy character, and Florestan, the fiery one)

“First Sorrow” (No. 16)

“Sicilienne” (No. 11)

Finally, the effervescent Hunting Song, No. 7 reveals the composer’s ebullient energy.