Tablet - Portrait

Tablet - Landscape


Robert Schumann

In the composer's original tempo (of a quarter note = 108 MM), "From Foreign Lands and People" has the spirit and sound of a happy folk dance with a trace of nostalgia in its lovely, innocent arching melody. The "accompaniment" in lower triplets has the nature of a lilting, perhaps twirling step. One can imagine a celebration to the sound of guitars and perhaps a flute and/or a basic, spontaneous chorus composed of "tra-la's." When played at the slower neo-Romantic tempo (circa quarter note = 80 MM) preferred by several editors of Schumann's works, the music expresses itself as a flowing ballad, a song perhaps about past times, to which the lower triplets provide a harp-like accompaniment.

The G major melody is comprised of a series of small phrases that each initially skip a wide, joyful interval and then descend scalewise. The melody always ends on the third note of the scale leaving the feeling floating in the air, sweetly unresolved. The melody is played twice before a bridge brings it into a slightly lower range. To play this simple passage calls upon the performer's sense of nuance to a rather fine degree. Should these measures be played with a gradual ritardando or can the tempo continue and only held back gracefully on the two notes before the melody returns? What is the effect then of re-starting the melody with the brief triplet at full tempo or still in the ritardando mode? The interesting musical problem (in the good sense) that the composer has put forward is one of asymmetry: the bridge consists of six measures, whereas we have become accustomed to expected the melody to cover eight measures. How does the interpreter make this bridge sound "natural"? (Now you can see why this set of Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood) is not meant to be performed by children.) From the bridge, the music then returns to an exact recapitulation of the melody and closes on that hanging third step leaving the listener with a wonderful image in mind.