Abegg Variations op. 1
Urtext Edition, paperbound
Pages: 22 (VI, 16), Size 23,5 x 31,0 cm
Order no. HN 87 · ISMN M-2018-0087-5
Level of difficulty (Piano): difficult (Level 7)
ABRSM: LRSM (recommended)
Who was “Pauline, Countess of Abegg”, the dedicatee of the first edition? Nowadays it is known that the matter revolves around a romantic mystification of the name of Meta Abegg, a friend from Schumann’s youth, whose surname inspired Schumann to a theme on A-B-E-G-G (a-hb-e-g-g). The “rewarding and sparkling piece” – as it was described by a critic of the time – makes high technical demands, but is distinguished by a youthful freshness and ingenious virtuosity.With this work (the first, incidentally, that Schumann deemed worthy of publication), Henle has issued a good third of Schumann’s piano works in revised versions that take account of the current state of research. The thoroughly-revised musical text is complemented by an informative preface and detailed commentary. Further revised volumes are in progress.
Avec cette œuvre - la première que Schumann jugea digne de publier -, un bon tiers de ses œuvres pour piano sont désormais présentes chez Henle sous forme d’éditions révisées en fonction de l’état actuel de la recherche. Une préface informative ainsi que des commentaires détaillés viennent compléter un texte entièrement revu et corrigé.
La versión crítica de Henle es, como siempre, impecable pero sin agobiar.
[Doce Notas, 2005]
Schumann’s Abegg Variations has long contained a controversial moment in the text towards its conclusion (bars 196–7), so it is good to see in this edition a full explanation of the alternative.
[International Piano, 2005]
Die Henle-Neuausgabe folgt in weiten Teilen dem bei Friedrich Kistner in Leipzig erschienenen Erstdruck und zeichnet sich durch ein gelungenes Gleichgewicht von wissenschaftlichem Urtext-Anspruch und hoher Praxistauglichkeit aus.
[Piano News, 2005]
The levels of difficulty of the
piano music published by G. Henle Publishers
The levels of difficulty of the piano music published by G. Henle Publishers
|1||easy||Bach, Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach, nos. 4 and 5|
|2||Bach, Well-Tempered Clavier I, no. 1 Prelude C major|
|3||Beethoven, Piano Sonatas op. 49,1 and 2|
|4||medium||Grieg, Lyric Pieces op. 12, no. 4|
|5||Schumann, Fantasy Pieces op. 12, no. 1|
|6||Chopin, Nocturnes op. 27, nos. 1 and 2|
|7||difficult||Beethoven, Piano Sonata op. 10, no. 3|
|8||Beethoven, Piano Sonata op. 81a|
|9||Schumann, Toccata op. 7|
Guide to the levels of difficulty
"I don't know what 'difficult' means. Either you can play or you can't" – this was the rather terse comment by the great violinist Nathan Milstein, on being asked about the unbelievable difficulty of Niccolo Paganini's Caprice no. 1.
The relativity of the evaluation of difficulty in music immediately becomes clear. Yet I gladly take up this great challenge, presented to me by G. Henle Publishers. For I am aware of how useful a guide like this can be, both from my own experience as well as that of many colleagues. In particular so as to be able to identify "appropriate" works. For example for music teachers, who teach at very different levels, from beginners to those preparing for music conservatories, but also for all those interested amateurs for whom this guide is intended.
After careful deliberation I have settled on nine levels of difficulty, which I have divided into three groups: 1–3 (easy), 4–6 (medium), 7–9 (difficult). A number of parameters have been considered when assessing the level of difficulty. I have not just looked at the number of fast or slow notes to be played, or the chord sequences; of central importance are also the complexity of the piece's composition, its rhythmic complexities, the difficulty of reading the text for the first time, and last but not least, how easy or difficult it is to understand its musical structure. I have defined "piece" as being the musical unit of a sonata, or a single piece in a cycle, which is why Bach's "Well-Tempered Clavier" Part I comprises a total of 48 levels of difficulty (each prelude and fugue is considered separately), Schumann's Sonata in f sharp minor op.11 only has a single number. My assessment is measured by the ability to prepare a piece for performance.
While assessing the pieces, it became clear that the medium level of difficulty (4–6) is the trickiest. Now and again this means that a piece is judged as a "3/4", even if it only deserved a "3" as far as piano technique is concerned. An example of such a "borderline" case (easy/medium) is Schumann's "Scenes from Childhood" op. 15 Von fremden Ländern und Menschen or at the other end "6/7" part of Bach's "English Suites". And of course within a main category there are also "from-to" evaluations (e.g. 7/8).
Any evaluation of art or music will always be subjective, even if the aim was to be objective. Despite the fact that I have endeavoured to be as careful as possible, I am all too aware that the results of my work can be called into question, and am therefore grateful for any suggestions you might have.
Prof. Rolf Koenen © 2010