No 01: Von fremden Ländern und Menschen
No 02: Kuriose Geschichte
No 03: Hasche-Mann
No 04: Bittendes Kind
No 05: Glückes genug
No 06: Wichtige Begebenheit
No 07: Träumerei
No 08: Am Kamin
No 09: Ritter vom Steckenpferd
No 10: Fast zu ernst
No 11: Fürchtenmachen
No 12: Kind im Einschlummern
No 13: Der Dichter spricht
Clara and Robert, when they did manage to meet, were often quite childlike in their joy. Robert wrote to her on 17 March 1838:
It was like an echo of something you once said, when you wrote to me that ‘I sometimes seemed to you like a child’—in short, I felt as though I were in pinafores again and knocked off around thirty quaint things, from which I selected twelve and called them ‘Scenes from Childhood’. You will enjoy them, but you’ll certainly have to forget yourself as a virtuoso.
The set (which in the end includes thirteen pieces) begins with Von fremden Ländern und Menschen (From foreign lands and people), whose disarming five-note theme recurs throughout the set. Kuriose Geschichte (A curious story) not only continues the expressive bass line already apparent in the first piece, but has some colourful octave doubling in the middle voice which should be brought out. In Hasche-Mann (Blind man’s buff), children vividly run around with their giggles being heard loud and clear. That opening figure is transformed into the pleas of an entreating child in Bittendes Kind which has some lovely counterpoint and ends on a question mark. Obviously the child got what he wanted because in the next piece he has found Glückes genug (Perfect happiness). In Wichtige Begebenheit (An important event) we must let the child engage in his own version of pomp, which wisely tails off at the end, allowing a beautiful transition into one of the most famous tunes ever written, Träumerei (Dreaming). I have often played this for an otherwise noisy group of school children as an example of a piece where you must be totally quiet to hear what is being said, asking them to dream something special at the same time. If ever an example is needed of how Schumann’s music must not be played metronomically in four-square bars and even beats, this is it. And what lovely counterpoint to go along with that melody.
We continue that cosy feeling in Am Kamin (By the fireside), although some fairly lively dialogue is going on as well. Incidentally, the difference in metronome markings between those of Clara and those of Robert are sometimes quite radical, and this piece is one example (Robert marks it at 138 to the crotchet, Clara at 108). The rocking of the knight on the hobby-horse is marvellously portrayed in Ritter vom Steckenpferd, with the right hand mimicking the back-and-forth movement it makes. We are back in a dreaming mode in Fast zu ernst (Almost too serious), with a syncopated melody adding to the feeling of fantasy. In Fürchtenmachen (Frightening), quite nonchalant lines alternate with threatening moments. Finally it all becomes too much for the child, and sleep comes as the cure for everything (Kind im Einschlummern), again leaving us suspended on the last chord. The adult has the final word in Der Dichter spricht (The poet speaks). There are not many endings in music as poignant as this one. Questions are asked after the initial statement, elaborated upon in a short recitative, and brought to their ultimate conclusion on a final chord which, ironically enough, demands the stretch of a tenth—something a child could never do.
from notes by Angela Hewitt © 2010