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Interpretation of Schumann's 'Humoreske' in B flat major, op. 20, within the context of Jean Paul Richter's romantic concept of 'humor'

This research began with the realization that Schumann's idea of "humor" (which the title of his work implies) might be very different from our own, and should be understood within the cultural and philosophical context of his time. To this end, I decided to base my research on the writings of celebrated author Jean Paul Richter, whom Schumann idolized, and who devoted a large section of his "Introduction to Aesthetics" to the subject of humor; the profound psychological connections between Schumann and Jean Paul, which I point out, are also very revealing. I went on to summarize some concepts within Jean Paul's definition of humor which seemed the most naturally analogous with the act of musical interpretation, such as romantic irony, "the Absurd" and "humorous sensuousness". In the final part of the research I put these ideas to use by experimenting with the interpretation of different sections of the "Humoreske"; in the written exposition I provided recordings to demonstrate the different possibilities which arise from this analogy, as well as a written explanation of the thought process behind each one. For the presentation I will demonstrate this at the piano. These recordings are the "final" result of my research in the sense that they represent a clear answer to the research question. However, while the process of conscious experimentation was illuminating- and can be repeated with any other work by the composer!- I believe that the most important result of this research would be impossible to document or present here: that is, the more subtle, subconscious way in which understanding Schumann's connection with the spirit of his time will continue to influence my playing.

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