Thursday, November 19, 2009

-bert to -mann

I promise this won't be as long as the previous post, but I had another recent experience noticing an unexpected connection between two works. Sunday night, I heard the terrific cellist Carol Ou play Schubert's "Arpeggione" Sonata and, as pianist Noreen Cassidy-Polera introduced the main theme, I suddenly realized how similar it is to the main theme of Schumann's Piano Concerto. I happen to have a student working on the Schumann right now, so that may explain why it was available for easy comparison-noting in my subconscious playlist. I've actually played both works, the Schubert many times, but perhaps never in close proximity to each other. Schumann was, of course, a great admirer of Schubert, so perhaps he knew the "Arpeggione," although Wikipedia informs me the sonata wasn't published until 1871, well after Schumann's death.

Anyway, it doesn't take much analysis to see how closely these A minor tunes parallel each other at their outsets, both in rhythm and melodic structure. And that's really all I have to say about this; I did play around briefly with some sort of mashup idea (such as replacing Schumann's piano statement of the theme [which follows woodwind statement] with Schubert's theme), but nothing worked. So at least now you have evidence that I won't just slap ANY two tunes together. (Well, OK, you can hear the beginnings of the two tunes slapped together by clicking the third image below.)


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Don't forget to visit my old Tune Theft archive, though the above doesn't quite qualify as tune theft in my book.


Elaine Fine said...

I don't know about this one. The Schumann tune is actually a setting of Clara's name--with the Greek spelling: CHA(R)A.

But I might suggest comparing the beginning of the Waldstein Sonata with the beginning of the Wanderer Fantasia while you are musing about Schubert.


Yeah, as I mentioned, it seems unlikely that Schumann even knew "Arpeggione." Also, the way the two tunes open is not all that distinctive, but I'm still struck by the sameness of key, rhythm, and the similar melodic profile; not only does each begin by exploring scale degrees 3,2, & 1 (admittedly, not at all unusual), but then each goes up the scale to 5 in the same rhythm. Of course, Schumann treats that 5 as an appoggiatura, and after that the tunes definitely go different directions.

I didn't know about the CHA(R)A thing. Talk about virtually random ways of generating creative ideas...