Monday, May 3, 2010

Schumann's Intermezzo - Brilliant Use of Dissonance

In preparing for a coming recital, I decided to add the Schumann Intermezzo from his " Viennese Carnival," written, as I recall, during his 29th year.
It is, of course, a most beautiful piece, coveted by many a pianist over the years. Its luscious sense of flow and exquisite harmonic sequence make it a true masterpiece.
The most riveting aspect of the Intermezzo aside from its all-too-apparent beauty, from my view, is Schumann's use of a non-chord tone in the guise of an appoggiatura - for those of you not familiar with this word, it is, in simple terms, a note that does not belong to the harmony surrounding it, and is a form of harmonic dissonance with a degree of weight due to its position within the format it appears. Schumann, at times, has the appoggiatura appear just before the note it is destined to resolve to, thus releasing the dissonance; however, at times, the composer uses the appoggiatura simultaneously with its destination note, making for a most pronounced dissonance if taken out of context. The manner in which Schumann utilizes this device, and if the performer melds it effectively into the overall fabric, causes this particular form of dissonance not to be heard as a dissonance, but as an extra spice which cannot be tasted, but enhances the flavor of the recipe.
It is, for me, a most brilliant and successful use of a consonance and dissonance forming a unique synergy.
For those of you who play, but have not looked at this piece, why not take a look at Schumann's wonderful strategy? And for those of you who are not active performers, why not pick up a recording in order to see if you can "pluck" this sound out of the overall fabric?
Incidentally, the greatest performance I know of the Intermezzo is by Michelangeli.

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