Carnaval Schumann

Carnaval Schumann


Robert Schumann, a composer during the Romantic era, wrote primarily piano music, at least during the early Romantic period. He only began branching out into other genres in 1840 (Robbins 2011). In many of Schumann's music, hints of Beethoven may be heard as Schumann frequently modeled and imitated Beethoven in music (Bonds 2010). 


Screen Shot 2014-04-05 at 9.17.38 PM

"Carnaval" is a collection of twenty piano pieces. The pieces are mostly character pieces, telling a story or embodying a mood or personality of a particular individual. This story-telling, emotional music is very typical in the early Romantic period. This is a characteristic that clearly sets it apart from the Classical music. One of the character pieces, Chiarina, is meant to be about Clara Wieck, Schumann's wife. The Chopin piece is arpeggiated, imitating some of Chopin's music. Estrella is shorter and less passionate than the Clara piece, perhaps because it is about his fiance before Clara (Robbins 2011). Intellectually, Schumann used spelling and musical codes built on chords within the works. The notes of the chords provide the frameworks for words that meant something to Schumann. For instance, A-Eb-C-B could roughly spell Aschi, the home of Schumann's fiance Ernestine (Robbins 2011). This technique to make the pieces fit together is somewhat more "intellectual" than would have been typical in earlier periods of music before the Romantic era. Within the work, as typical for the early Romantic era, one may see more rubato and constant dynamic changes and shifts in mood. The melody still takes precedence over the harmony, but the bottom parts are becoming less homophonic and more important on their own to the whole work.


Many similarities exist between Schumann's "Carnaval" and Chopin's "Preludes" written in 1839. Also intellectual like Schumann's writing, Chopin composes one work for each major and minor key. Both works have a clear focus on melody. Rubato is common throughout both works. Also, more accidentals and different harmonies are used throughout both the "Preludes" and "Carnaval."


I find Schumann's "Carnaval" very interesting, particularly the characterization and programmatic elements found in this period of music. The musicality of these works generally sound different and less controlled to me than piano music in the Classical period, which is something I heard more of in my study of Schumann's piano music.

Works CitedEdit

"Carnaval Schumann." YouTube video, 5:29. Posted by "Gogulancelot," upload April 23, 2011.

Mark Evans Bonds. A History of Music in Western Culture. 4th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice-Hall, 2013.

Allison Robbins. (2011, March) Romantic Period. Musicology 220. Lecture conducted from University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Clara Schumann (Editor). Carnaval, Op. 9. Creative Commons Attribution.,_Op.9_(Schumann,_Robert)