What are some lively piano songs

Seven of Schumann's most beautiful works to play on the piano

In this article we have selected seven of the most beautiful works by Schumann for you to play on the piano. From "Papillons" to his "Album for the Young", to his unforgettable piano concerto in A minor, immerse yourself in the history of Schumann's greatest piano masterpieces. All these notes with fingering can of course also be found in the Tomplay apps!

Robert Schumann's life and work have two things in common: romance and passion. His torments and love for Clara Wieck are the beating heart of his compositions. The constant dichotomy of his personality, illustrated by the coexistence of his two characters Florestan and Eusebius, can also be interpreted in his preference for literature as well as for music.

Little Robert was born on June 8th, 1810 in Zwickau, Germany. He was the fifth child in the family and his father was a bookseller, publisher, and writer.

When Robert Schumann was very young, he was enthusiastic about literature and dreamed of becoming a poet. At the same time he was taking piano lessons from the cathedral organist and nurtured a second passion for music. He had already started composing.

After the suicide of his sister Emilie in 1828 and the death of his father, his mother decided shortly afterwards that he should study law in Leipzig. However, he showed little interest in his studies and spent more time attending the city's musical and philosophical societies than studying law.

During these events he met the piano maker and teacher Friedrich Wieck and decided to move into his house to benefit from his skills. Schumann was 18 years old, lived with his new piano teacher and met his daughter Clara Wieck, who was nine years younger than him and already a child prodigy was.

1. 1829-1831: "Papillons", Opus 2, VII. Waltz, "Semplice"

▶️ Play "Papillons", Opus 2, VII. Waltz, "Semplice" on the piano

At this time, between 1829 and 1831, Schumann wrote "Papillons", Opus 2, one of his first completed compositions. This suite of pieces for piano is dedicated to his three sisters-in-law Thérèse, Rosalie and Emilie and was created at the same time as his variations on the name "Abegg".

The work, which depicts a masked ball, was directly inspired by the novel "Flegeljahre" by the German writer Jean Paul. This is what Schumann wrote about his suite in 1832:

"Bring 'Papillons' to Thérèse, Rosalie and Emilie [...]. Then ask them to read the closing scene of Jean Paul’s“ Flegeljahre ”as soon as possible and tell them that“ Papillons ”is actually a sound translation of the Costume balls, and ask them if perhaps something of the angelic love of Wina, the poetic nature of Walt, and the lively spirit of Vult is well represented in "Papillons".

A beautiful illustration of the close connection that literature and music have for Robert Schumann, who linked the passages from "Flegeljahre" directly with his "Papillons".

Let's take a look at No. 7, the exquisite waltz "Semplice". The composer compared the following passage to "a scorching drought in the desert or the dry heat of a fever". It is a gentle interlude that gracefully takes us into a dream ...

In our Tomplay app, the waltz "Semplice" from "Papillons", Opus 2 by Schumann [3] is available to amateur piano players with years of practice! The Tomplay sheet music includes the fingerings as well as a studio recording made by a professional pianist to make the learning process easier for you.

2. 1834-1835: "Carnaval", Opus 9 - XII. Chopin

▶️ Play "Carnaval", Opus 9 - XII, Chopin, on the piano

In the early 1830s, Schumann suffered excruciating pain in his arms. The causes were uncertain: tendinitis due to intensive work? Paralysis of the right hand caused by the use of one of his inventions that would have allowed him to attain greater dexterity? An STD? Syphilis? Whatever the cause, the inability to use his hand meant that he had to give up a possible career as a concert pianist forever. Now it was certain: Schumann would be a composer and only a composer.

Schumann's hypochondriac and depressive tendencies intensified with the death of his sister-in-law Rosalie, then with the death of his brother Julius and finally with the cholera epidemic that raged in Germany in 1833.

Schumann composed the "Carnaval" Suite, Opus 9, between 1834 and 1835 and dedicated it to the Polish violinist Karol Lipiński, who was very well known in Europe at the time and whom he greatly admired.

They are subtitled "Scènes mignonnes sur quatre notes" and consist of 21 parts that are connected to one another by the same pattern, which is formed from one or two series of four notes and which can be broken down into words in German notation like a puzzle ( another demonstration of the complementarity of the two art forms in Schumann's work!)

His "Carnaval" is musically more sophisticated than his "Papillons". He created the story around his work, his musical illustration and the collusion between his music and the words themselves. In general, the work is a musical representation of an elaborate, imaginative masked ball during the carnival season. Just like his growing inner dichotomy, Schumann lets charming harmonies and dark, powerful chords follow one another on the piano.

Although he dedicated the twelfth movement of this suite, "Chopin", to Frédéric Chopin, the latter allegedly said that the "Carnaval" was not music at all. Schumann met Chopin on two occasions, but was not received warmly by him, and Chopin also had a low opinion of Schumann's works. Apparently he also had access to Schumann's notes on "Papillons" and mocked his lively imagination and inspiration as if it came straight out of a book.

The wonderful "Chopin" movement from the "Carnaval" Suite Opus 9 is written in the manner of the nocturnes of the Polish composer. In the Tomplay app, it is available at a simple-medium level and is therefore an accessible piece. At Tomplay we offer you the sheet music with fingerings and synchronized with the performance by the world-famous pianist Wilhelm Kempff. This exquisite performance will help you make the piece your own and make your learning process easier!

3. 1838: "Kinderszenen", Opus 15 - No. 1 “From foreign countries and people”

▶️ Play "Children's Scenes", Opus 15 - No. 1 “From Foreign Lands and People” on the piano

In 1835 Robert Schumann and Clara Wieck exchanged their first kiss, began their love affair and, after years of sharing and mutual admiration, wanted to get married.

Friedrich Wieck, Clara's father and Schumann's former piano teacher, was vehemently against her marriage and organized a concert tour for Clara to keep her away from her admirer. However, he had not reckoned with the all-consuming passion of the two lovers, who continued to write and, above all, sent each other their respective compositions.

For months Schumann adapted the compositions he received from Clara and she publicly played the works that her lover had sent her. A real novel of musical love was born out of her passion, and for the first time in Schumann's life, tonal language took precedence over literature.

With his "Kinderszenen" Robert Schumann reveals his interest in the romantic cult of childhood. Are they pieces inspired by his own childhood, by Clara, whom he has known for nine years, or a nifty mix of both?

On March 17th, 1838 he wrote to Clara: "Is it an answer to what you wrote to me one day that 'you sometimes make me think of a child'? If so, you will see that this child has grown wings because I have written more than thirty short pieces and selected a dozen of them, which I will summarize under the name “Kinderszenen.” You will undoubtedly enjoy playing them, but you will have to forget that you are a virtuoso . You will have to do without effects, but let yourself be carried away by their very simple, natural and unadorned grace ".

In that year he also composed several masterpieces for piano, including his "Kreisleriana", which, thanks to their tormented character, corresponded better to the difficult times the composer was going through during this period.

The first piece in this cycle, and one of the most famous, "Von Stranger Land und Menschen", invites the player to work on the left hand technique and understand the two voices that it brings together, in addition to the happy right hand melody . It is a very good exercise for working on finger independence. The sheet music with fingerings can be found in the Tomplay app. It also includes a performance by pianist Vladimir Horowitz, which you can listen to at your leisure, and which will make learning the piece easier for you.

4. 1838: "Kinderszenen", Opus 15 - No. 7 "Träumerei"

▶️ Play "Kinderszenen", Opus 15 - No. 7, "Träumerei", on the piano

Here is another very well-known piece of music, from the cycle "Kinderszenen", which is even better known than the previous one: "Träumerei" is the central piece of the work.

Despite the simplicity of the composition, it was an instant hit, illustrating a serene and dreamy introspection. In the 1890s, "Träumerei" appeared in more publications than any other work by any other composer in the German-speaking world.

The comments of the Austrian composer Alban Berg, who became famous themselves, reflected the feelings of the music lovers who listened to the piece: "In the presence of such a melody one completely loses the ground under one's feet. We can see its value, but we can cannot prove it. The mind will not help to come to an agreement on this subject; one is receptive to its charm or not. No argument is able to convert someone who refuses to be pleased about it and it there is nothing to say if someone attacks it, except that you play it for him and make him cry: "How nice!".

Incidentally, "Träumerei" gave its name to a rose from the Kordes company, a German family business with an international reputation that has specialized in rose cultivation and the breeding of new varieties.

In the Tomplay app you will also find the sheet music from Schumann's "Träumerei" to play on the piano. The sheet music includes fingerings as well as a famous performance by pianist Jan Lisiecki that will help you learn the piece.

5. 1839: "Faschingsschwank from Vienna", Opus 26 - II. Romance

▶️ Play "Faschingsschwank aus Wien", Opus 26 - II. Romance, solo on the piano

In 1839 Schumann went to Vienna, the cradle of the greatest romantic composers, where he tried unsuccessfully to improve his musical reputation and continued his correspondence and music exchange with Clara. Although her father still refused to offer her hand to a man he described as a drinker, her passion only got stronger. Friedrich Wieck went so far as to slander his daughter in front of the directors of the concert halls in which she played.

Schumann got the inspiration for the composition of "Faschingsschwank aus Wien" from his trip there. He wrote the first four sentences on site, the last on his return to Leipzig the following year.

Here we witness a transformation of Schumann's work, which until then remained true to the musical conventions of the time and contributed to completing the metamorphosis from Classical to Romanticism initiated by Beethoven and Schubert.

The second movement, Romance, is probably the least virtuoso and only a page long. It is undoubtedly the saddest piece in the suite, but still the most exquisite. Play the score of the romance from Schumann's "Faschingsschwank aus Wien" in the Tomplay app. The sheet music is available with fingerings. The many functions available, such as the ability to record yourself and listen to it again or to comment on and print out the notes, make the learning process easier for you.

6. 1845: Piano Concerto in A minor, Opus 54

▶️ Play the Piano Concerto in A minor, Opus 54 with an orchestral accompaniment

In 1840 Robert and Clara went to court without the blessing of Patriarch Wieck to obtain permission to marry. In addition, Schumann won his libel suit against him. They received official permission to marry, and the wedding took place on September 12, 1840 in Schönefeld, a suburb of Leipzig.

Schumann's marriage to Clara inspired many masterpieces, and in the same year he met Franz Liszt. At this time, the complement between Robert and Clara was at its peak, as he could no longer play and she was a virtuoso interpreter who, however, could not compose openly, as the composition of music by women was treated very disdainfully at the time.

Schumann lived in Clara's shadow, who was a real star in Europe. She led her career as a pianist and her life as a wife and mother who gave birth to eight children, six of whom survived. After that, the tensions between the couple and Friedrich Wieck subsided.

Schumann composed his Piano Concerto in A minor, Opus 54, 1845 for his wife - like the vast majority of his works - and with her encouragement. She performed it for the first time in a concert on August 13, 1841 in Leipzig under the direction of her friend Felix Mendelssohn.

The first movement, Allegro affettuoso, presents a wildly powerful opening theme that elegantly contrasts with a soulful piano and clarinet duet. The composer really enjoyed reconciling very different moods! The second movement, Intermezzo, is gentle and enthusiastic, and continues without a break into the last movement, Allegro vivace, in which it revisits the previous themes to end in a lively finale.

At Tomplay we offer you a unique experience: Play Schumann's Piano Concerto in A minor accompanied by a real orchestra! Tomplay's interactive sheet music is synchronized with the orchestral accompaniment and you can even adjust the tempo of the music to suit your level.

7. 1848: "Album for the Young", Opus 68, Book I - No. 16, "First Loss"

▶️ Play the "Album for the Young", Opus 68, Book I - No. 16, "First Loss" on the piano

The completion of the concert in mid-July 1845 was followed by the composer's complete physical breakdown and growing feelings of fear.

In September 1848 the composer put together in his "Album for the Young" the various miniature pieces that he had written over several years in an educational way for the 7th birthday of his daughter Marie. As in "Children's Scenes", he was inspired by the world of childhood, but in contrast to this, the pieces in "Album for the Young" are aimed more at a young audience.

The sixteenth piece in this cycle, "First Loss", presents an interplay between the left and right hand voices throughout the piece, creating a flowing dialogue and nostalgic atmosphere. You can find the sheet music of "First Loss" with fingering in the Tomplay app.

1849-1856: From light to darkness

The year 1849 marked the beginning of a new creative period for Schumann: songs, piano music, chamber music, vocal ensembles and choirs - it was a very fruitful time. He also went on a tour with his wife. It was a great success!

Some time later he tried to conduct lessons and orchestras, but with which he was unsuccessful and was despised by the critics. For Robert Schumann, whose physical and mental health deteriorated day by day, this was the beginning of a descent into hell.

In 1854 Schumann suffered from auditory hallucinations that made him hear a topic that he put on paper. Dissatisfied with the result, however, he interpreted it as a divine warning. A few days later he crossed the city (Düsseldorf) in his slippers in the rain and threw himself into the Rhine. He was dragged out and taken to a mental hospital that he was never supposed to leave.

He never saw Clara again during this long period of briefing, nor did she inform him of the birth of her son Felix. She seldom wrote him several late letters. Nevertheless, Schumann's condition improved and he was visited by Brahms and their mutual friend, the violinist Joseph Joachim. The doctors spoke of a possible return home, but Clara refused because she did not want to see her "half-healed" husband.

The composer lost all hope. He wrote his last letter to Clara, burned her letters and refused to eat. Clara eventually visited him on his deathbed. On the afternoon of the 29thRobert Schumann died in July 1856. Clara wrote: "He smiled at me and took me into his arms with great difficulty. And I would not give this hug for all the treasures in the world".

Robert Schumann left behind his own, unmistakable music: sometimes immersed in euphoria and love, sometimes tormented and gloomy, but always imaginative, pathetic and mysterious.


Hit the keys! Play some Schumann with Tomplay

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