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I'm playing the Kinderszenen (from the Kalmus edition) and wondering if the metronome speeds indicated were set by Schumann or by the editor. I'd really prefer to play the first one more slowly than suggested.

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Imslp.org is a great resource for checking the various editions or downloading music

From imslp

The Godowsky edition has mm at 108
First edition has 108
Clara Schumann’s edition has no metronome markings


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This question keeps coming back.

Schumann indicates quarter note=100, which in later editions was changed to quarter note=84, but some say that the speed should be halved, that his metronome was broken, etc. I think that Schumann did have the right speed marking, but that this is the speed for the fastest parts, and that a lot of slowdown can be used where he indicates so.

Here's my attempt at it, from some years ago
http://recitals.pianoworld.com/reportPerformance.php?id=1486

Last edited by wouter79; 01/30/22 09:01 AM.

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Originally Posted by Tono
I'm playing the Kinderszenen (from the Kalmus edition) and wondering if the metronome speeds indicated were set by Schumann or by the editor. I'd really prefer to play the first one more slowly than suggested.
Don't get wedded to composers' metronome markings.

We don't live in their times, we don't play on period pianos with poor sustain and light touch, and - most of all - we don't know how they actually played. (BTW, Clara evidently played her husband's music slower than his metronome markings.) No concert pianist plays Kinderszenen at his metronome markings.

And we have lots of evidence from 'modern' times (as in within our lifetimes, if we have white or no hair and no teeth) of composers performing (playing/conducting) their music much slower than their metronome markings. For instance, there is a well-known simple piano piece which has become a minor classic since it was composed, which the composer himself recorded......at about half his metronome marking.

Incidentally, I practise what I preach - I don't own a functioning metronome (I have a miniature antique which I treasure, because it proclaims loudly: "Made in West Germany", which will undoubtedly be a valuable collector's item in about four score and ten years), and I don't use one with my students.


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Originally Posted by Tono
I'm playing the Kinderszenen (from the Kalmus edition) and wondering if the metronome speeds indicated were set by Schumann or by the editor. I'd really prefer to play the first one more slowly than suggested.

The revised first edition has 108 for the first piece. It is not confirmed if this is coming from Schumann or not. 2 points though to bear in mind. In the personal copy of Schumann, there are annotations and corrections but not on the metronome mark, though the annotations could be by Clara. In the Instructive Ausgabe prepared by Clara Schumann, she indicated also 108. That said, many pianists play this piece slower than that, at 65 or slower, except Perahia who plays it around 90.


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Originally Posted by wouter79
This question keeps coming back.

Schumann indicates quarter note=100, which in later editions was changed to quarter note=84, but some say that the speed should be halved, that his metronome was broken, etc. I think that Schumann did have the right speed marking, but that this is the speed for the fastest parts, and that a lot of slowdown can be used where he indicates so.
The only tempo change indicated is one ritardando. The rest of the piece should be played basically at a constant speed. IOW there are no "fastest parts" for this piece.

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by wouter79
This question keeps coming back.

Schumann indicates quarter note=100, which in later editions was changed to quarter note=84, but some say that the speed should be halved, that his metronome was broken, etc. I think that Schumann did have the right speed marking, but that this is the speed for the fastest parts, and that a lot of slowdown can be used where he indicates so.
The only tempo change indicated is one ritardando. The rest of the piece should be played basically at a constant speed. IOW there are no "fastest parts" for this piece.

Yes, tempo changes were to be added as yo liked and they loved it. Just like they leave out dynamic markings in baroque


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Originally Posted by wouter79
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by wouter79
This question keeps coming back.

Schumann indicates quarter note=100, which in later editions was changed to quarter note=84, but some say that the speed should be halved, that his metronome was broken, etc. I think that Schumann did have the right speed marking, but that this is the speed for the fastest parts, and that a lot of slowdown can be used where he indicates so.
The only tempo change indicated is one ritardando. The rest of the piece should be played basically at a constant speed. IOW there are no "fastest parts" for this piece.

Yes, tempo changes were to be added as yo liked and they loved it. Just like they leave out dynamic markings in baroque
If you listen to virtually every great pianist play the first piece in Kinderscenen you will hear they use very little, if any, rubato. So there are no "fastest parts" as you seem to claim. There is one ritardando. Using a lot of rubato on this short piece would be inappropriate. Additionally, even if a lot of rubato is appropriate for a given piece, the composer's tempo indication at the beginning is never meant for the fast parts.

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My suggestion would be to listen to a number of concert pianists/well-known pianists play the piece, observe the general tempo, figure out which one is comfortable for you, and go with that.

Being married to the score on some issues can be problematic, especially when we all have become accustomed to hearing a piece a certain way over time. There are numerous pieces where the tempo is marked one way, but the general consensus on how the piece is played in modern performances is another, especially with older baroque/rococo pieces.

And sometimes people come to expect to hear it that way, get acclimated to that type of interpretation, and grow to prefer that to what the score may say.

There’s also what others have mentioned: pianos were different then, piano playing was a bit different then, and tempo markings may be set to the performer’s choice. Schumann’s metronome may have been broken or he may have meant a half note equals 108 and accidentally filled the note in. There are many instances of issues with scores.

So, ultimately, first it should be about how it feels for you, then the general consensus on how it is played because that’s what people will want to hear. Most times, that follows the score. Occassionally, it doesn’t.

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My feeling is that one should take "general consensus" with a grain of salt. Check out my vid on B's Moonlight.

Should we go with consensus if it differs with the composer's markings? I prefer 1. the composer's markings (yes, there are exceptions to this), 2. then go with the tempo that is most comfortable, and hopefully the two will match somewhat. Personally I prefer a slower tempo for Kinderszenen #1 but I will admit Schumann's marking gives me paws.

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About tempo controversies. Isn't there a guy on Youtube who advocates playing everything at half the indicated tempi? Or was it two guys? Sometimes I remember a spanish young teen, sometimes a creepy middle aged german guy, playing things at ridiculously slow tempi. Maybe they're a couple. Those videos were hilarious.


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