The Ordering of Schumann's Symphonic Etudes, Op.13: Incorporating the Posthumous Variations

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2014-12

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Abstract

The ordering of movements in Schumann’s Symphonic Etudes is a question that pianists have yet to fully resolve. This problem is a result of decisions that Schumann made when he wrote, revised, and edited different versions of the Etudes during the course of eighteen years (1834-52). Previous writers have not addressed the structural differences between the versions and have not dealt with the issue of incorporating the posthumous variations in performance. This essay first surveys the compositional history of the Symphonic Etudes and compares the various orderings that Schumann arranged, placing the posthumous variations back into their original context. Next, it analyzes and identifies the topics and characters of the individual variations, followed by a narrative analysis of Schumann’s own two representative orderings, Fantaisies et finale and XII Études Symphoniques. The difference of the two versions lies in how the overall structure is defined and the strategic changes in where the shift to D-flat major occurs. In the Fantaisies et finale, the overall structure is determined by the character of individual pieces and the shift to D-flat major occurs in the finale. In the XII Études Symphoniques, the structure is determined by the key of pieces. The work as a whole projects a more dynamic harmonic progression, i-III-v-I. Later pianists might incorporate the posthumous variations accordingly. Finally, several representative orderings of later pianists illustrate the strategy.

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Keywords

Symphonic Etudes, Fantaisies et finale, Schumann, Posthumous Variations

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