Scenes from Childhood

Not a lot of classical music is aimed at children, or would admit to being written for children (see: Camille Saint-Saëns’ embarrassment at the supposed “frivolity” of his Carnival of the Animals, which he did not allow to be played publicly in its entirety during his lifetime). In fact many people think that classical music for children essentially begins and ends with Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. But I’ve always loved Robert Schumann’s Kinderszenen, or “Scenes from Childhood,” Opus 15.

Written as a reflection on Schumann’s own childhood, Scenes from Childhood is comprised of 13 short piano pieces (they average from just 1 to 3 minutes each; the entire composition is around 17 minutes long). Each part has an evocative title, and I’ve often thought if I were a teacher, a fun classroom activity would be to play each piece and ask children to match the name of the section to what they hear. With titles like A Curious Story, Happy Enough, An Important Event, Dreaming, Frightening, etc., it would be partly easy and partly challenging to match the music to either a literal or abstract concept. (In fact, teachers reading this please feel free to use this idea in a lesson plan. I only ask that if you do, at some point you come back here and leave a comment reporting on how it went. I’d love to know).

Here are Parts 1-8, performed by Sergey Koudriakov:

And here are Parts 9-13:

And if you are so inclined, there is even a Kinderszenen Facebook fan page. With only 18 “likes” so far, it seems membership has nowhere to go but up.

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