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Schumann Toccata Op. 7
#1261498 09/03/09 12:50 AM
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It seems there hasn't been a thread specifically about this piece since 2003. I'm in the earliest stages of learning it—and admittedly wondering if I've bit off more than I can chew, based not on my initial experiences but rather the Toccata's fearsome reputation. What exactly does that rest on?

I take for granted that I won't be trying to bring it to the speed of professional performances. The fastest ones, in my opinion, display technical bravura at the expense of musical expressiveness, and a tempo of Allegro affords the requisite latitude for what I believe will be a reasonable and attainable goal.

That said, I'm having trouble understanding just what is considered so difficult as to warrant such extreme opinions about the Toccata and its rarefied standing in the repertoire. It's obvious that a functional and comfortable span of a tenth and fluency with double-note and octave passages are essential, but what else am I failing to see?

Any comments about technique by those who've worked on the Toccata, and about its musical qualities by anyone familiar with it, would be most appreciated!

Steven

Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7
sotto voce #1261507 09/03/09 01:32 AM
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It's probably all Cziffra's fault...



P.S. You're a brave soul for even trying it at Allegro! wink

Last edited by akonow; 09/03/09 01:33 AM.

Bach - WTC I in C major & C minor (BWV 846-847)
Mozart - Sonata K 282
Chopin - Polonaises Op 26
Schumann - Fantasiestücke Op 12
Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7
akonow #1261514 09/03/09 01:39 AM
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Or barere's.

Very uncomfortable fingerings.

Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7
beginningpianist #1261533 09/03/09 02:24 AM
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The smoothest version is Lhevinne's. It is not the fastest, but he exhibits such control over the piece that one is overwhelmed by his mastery.

I looked at Harold Bauer's edition once, and I think it is worth looking up. He redistributes the notes to untangle the knots.


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Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7
BDB #1261802 09/03/09 12:13 PM
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I wouldn't listen to recordings of pieces if I'm in the process of learning them >.< But that's just me.

I've heard it's a bitch to play because your hand just gets so tired so fast.. So if you're tense at all and not practicing right, you'll start hurting in no time.

Man, I'm never touching that piece!



"The eyes can mislead, the smile can lie, but the shoes always tell the truth."
Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7
Pogorelich. #1261830 09/03/09 12:50 PM
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Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and nuclear weapons.
Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7
Horowitzian #1261861 09/03/09 01:32 PM
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I've only read through it a couple times, but apart from the obvious technical difficulties already mentioned, such as octave passages, double-note passages, and above all, stamina, I think there are a lot of difficulties musically to pull it off. Some of these are:
- maintaining a clear leggiero so nothing sounds muddy,
- making each musical line stand out, especially in the fugato section in the middle
- maintaining tempo
- giving the piece shape/character so it doesn't sound simply like a double-note etude

Taken at a reasonable tempo, I hardly think the piece is impossible, but be ready for a challenge.


What you are is an accident of birth. What I am, I am through my own efforts. There have been a thousand princes and there will be a thousand more. There is one Beethoven.
Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7
sotto voce #1262171 09/04/09 12:16 AM
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There are a bunch of spots that are tough for me personally, but the passage where I think I've heard the most pianists in general come to grief is the one with a series of fortissimo/staccato and pianissimo/legato alternations, approximately three-quarters of the way through the piece (not counting the repeat). The left-hand octave leaps in that section especially - they seem to be really hard to nail for a lot of pianists that I've heard play it.

Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7
wr #1262187 09/04/09 01:52 AM
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Ditto to the observations by WR and 8ude.

I started to work on the Toccata a few months ago - and was surprised how easy it initially appeared to be - once I got past the thirds on the second page. I worked out the fingering and was getting fairly good at playing hands separately with the score. Then I was able to play different sections of the piece at a moderate tempo hands together. Soon after that, however, reality kicked in. I realized what I was up against both musically and technically. From a technical standpoint, the abrupt transitions between sections were clearly going to be a challenge if the tempo was to be maintained. I decided to shelve the piece for a few months until I retire and can devote more time to learning it. Memorization may be the key. Years ago I performed the Symphonic Etudes in recital. The Toccata is clearly going to be much more of a challenge to learn and play - but I'm motivated because I really love this work !! I hope I can pull it off.


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Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7
Carey #1262290 09/04/09 09:23 AM
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Originally Posted by carey
Years ago I performed the Symphonic Etudes in recital. The Toccata is clearly going to be much more of a challenge to learn and play


Wow that surprises me. Really?

P.S. Sorry Steven, I can't comment on the Toccata specifics, as I have not really studied it. But I love the piece and wish you lots of fun and success studying it.

Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7
pianovirus #1262712 09/04/09 10:57 PM
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Per Pianovirus - "Wow that surprises me. Really?"

Yup - really (my personal opinion). Don't get me wrong - the Symphonic Etudes are a handful!! With the Etudes, you at least get a bit of a break between sections - and the etudes vary somewhat in character, tempo and technical demands. The Toccata, on the other hand is seven minutes of intense perpetual motion.


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Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7
Carey #1263052 09/05/09 03:15 PM
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carey, thanks for your explanation!

Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7
pianovirus #1263118 09/05/09 05:47 PM
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Many thanks to everyone for your comments.

I'm using Henle as my study score (though there's fingering in both roman and italic type and I'm still not sure what the distinction is). Unfortunately, the edition by Harold Bauer that BDB mentioned, once published by Schirmer, has been out of print for many years. I printed out another version from IMSLP; it's heavily overedited by Henry P. Eames, but the fingerings are occasionally useful.

I've come across a marking I don't remember ever seeing, from bars 142-146 and again from 197-202:

[Linked Image]


[Linked Image]

Does anyone have any idea what T.S.P. means? If I had to guess (considering the musical context), I would say tenuto sostenuto pedal. However, according to Dolmetsch Online "s.p." means senza pedale, and I can't corroborate that "t." (instead of "ten.") would ever be used for tenuto. What was Mr. Eames thinking here?

Steven

Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7
sotto voce #1263140 09/05/09 06:23 PM
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That's "The Sostenuto Pedal," meaning the "middle pedal" on a grand. I seriously doubt that Schumann wrote this into the piece. I suspect it was added by an editor. The obvious idea is to sustain a pedal tone. It's not a bad idea, but timing that pedal to pick up only the note or notes you want is not at all easy.

Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7
wdot #1263267 09/05/09 10:50 PM
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I have played this forever. The challenge is endurance to the end. The secret is LOTS of bicep curls...

Been there, done that...


Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7
Auntie Lynn #1263295 09/06/09 02:02 AM
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I used to tune for a woman who had studied with Harold Bauer, and she would play the toccata after I finished tuning. She was 97 or 98 years old at the time.


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Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7
BDB #1263455 09/06/09 11:38 AM
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Out of respect for your selection sv ... I downloaded the Schumann Toccata Opus 7 and played the first 20 measures to make my dog howl ... with your liking for Chopin, what on earth made you want to punish yourself with this Germanic finger-grind ... which reminds me of the notoriously deadly accuracy of train arrivals in Deutchland (I married a German wife so please show a little sympathy, chaps!) ... efficiency in getting to one’s destination is one thing ... but how much more pleasant en route to stop a while and smell the roses (just stirring).

As someone in awe of the Schumann genius for his Kinderscenen Opus 15, it beats me why the chappie didn’t blossom further and reach greater heights ... and instead churn out cold and arid repeating note patterns which might impress some when played at a rate of knots ... but for my part totally lack the magic carpet ride of a Chopin Nocturne.

Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7
btb #1263461 09/06/09 11:51 AM
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Perhaps Steven would like to broaden his horizons. smile


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Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7
btb #1263489 09/06/09 12:34 PM
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Originally Posted by btb
As someone in awe of the Schumann genius for his Kinderscenen Opus 15, it beats me why the chappie didn’t blossom further and reach greater heights ... and instead churn out cold and arid repeating note patterns which might impress some when played at a rate of knots ... but for my part totally lack the magic carpet ride of a Chopin Nocturne.


I would say Schumann's Toccata is greater than Chopin's similar Etude in C from Op.10. As far as reaching greater heights, two of Schumann's greatest works, Kreisleriana and the Fantasy immediately follow Kinderscenen.

Re: Schumann Toccata Op. 7
btb #1263506 09/06/09 01:03 PM
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Hi btb,

Hehe, well, I did invite comments about the Toccata's musical character, after all!

I love Schumann's piano music, even though I've never been motivated actually to learn much of it. While his musical point of view was obviously different from Chopin's, I think that their music has more common elements than Chopin cared to concede. The similarities in warmth, sentiment, harmonies and cadences are as palpable to me in the Toccata as anywhere else, though it would be more instructive to compare it to Chopin's essays in perpetuum mobile like the Etude 10/7 than to any Nocturne. smile

While the technical aspects of the Toccata are fun, I am finding great beauty in the music, too. The secondary theme is lovely, as is much of the passage work leading up to and away from it even at slow speeds; the development is downright scintillating.

Time will tell if this is too much of a challenge, but I'm very motivated to give it a try. I think that speed for its own sake is a bad idea here, but stamina is obviously a big factor even at the most modest Allegro. Still, I am actually pleased that the Toccata does not contain the compositional element I most strongly associate with Schumann: voices, melodies or figurations that are divided between or passed between the hands (something basically unknown in Chopin).

So even though the Toccata is a stretch for me technically, it doesn't feel like a big stretch from the familiar home turf of Chopin at all. It might be even more of a challenge if its musical vocabulary seemed less familiar, but then I would probably not have the compelling interest in learning it that I do.

There's no accounting for taste or what we find beautiful, appealing or enjoyable. I've yet to persuade many of the merits of Chopin's own Allegro de Concert Op. 46 (despite Chopin's own apparent esteem for the piece), so I accept that that's just how it goes.

Steven

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