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Arabesque analysis

Robert Schumann wrote his Arabeske in C major, Op. 18 in 1839 when he was 29 years old,
dedicating it to Frau Majorin Friederike Serre auf Maxen. He was influenced by Christian Schuburt's
book on musical aesthetics, in which C major, the key of the Arabeske, was identified with the
childish and simple, relegating more intense emotions to the sharped keys. The piece is in rondo
form (ABACA) with a gentle lyrical A section, 2 more intense B sections (minore I and II), and a
beautiful reflective C section (epilogue).
Theme
Pitch
The piece is in C major
Melodic line is generally in the middle of the
register, but it builds up chromatically,
especially in the first idea, which has an
upwards sloping contour.
The second idea contains leads instead of steps and tends to
move down and up, instead of in a straight line.
Duration
The tempo is quite quick- MM crotchet=152.
The melodic line always has a dotted quaver-semiquaver-dotted quaver-semiquaver pattern.

This pattern creates a slightly syncopated sound.
Dynamics and Expressive Techniques
The dynamics are very soft to begin with (pp) but there are small crescendos throughout
each phrase which bring it up to a mf.
Contrast is created in the accompanying left hand, which switches to staccatos as the theme
nears the end.
Through the use of these staccatos, the legato, lyrical theme immediately becomes jumpy
and detached, as if awakening the audience in preparation for the next section.
Texture
Homophonic texture- right hand plays the melody and left hand plays accompaniment
Relatively thin due to minimal dynamics and lack of large chords.
Structure
Separated into 5 bar phrases, with each phrase starting halfway through a bar.
Minore 1
Pitch
This section modulates to E minor, with brief modulations to the relative major (G major)
.
The melody moves up then down again towards the end of the phrase.
Unlike the theme, this melodic line moves with large jumps, which can often sound out of
place due to irregular major intervals.
Duration
The tempo becomes a little slower, indicated by the term etwas langsamer, which means a
little lazier.
The note values also change to quavers and crotchets, in contrast with the semiquavers in
the theme.
There is no variation of rhythm, as the whole section is played by straight quavers.
Dynamics and Expressive Techniques
The dynamics are moderately loud, again increasing through short crescendos, which slowly
build up the dynamics until it reaches forte.
The first note of the second half of each phrase is accented, demonstrating where the piece
climaxes.
Structure
The melody is in 4 bar phrases, which can be separated into a 2 bar call, followed by a 2 bar
response.
The first idea is repeated but developed differently in the repetition.
There is a short antiphony between the right
and the left hands, which explore a similar
melody but in different clefs.
Texture
Slightly thicker texture than the theme due to the use of chords.
Still homophonic
Minore 2
Pitch
Modulates back to C major
Scalic progression of melody
The melodic line is in crotchets this time, accompanied by the dotted quaver-semiquaver
idea first heard in the theme.
The phrase is heard in
sequences twice.
o In the first sequence, the theme is moved down a major 3
rd
, starting on C instead. In
this sequence, the accompaniment moves in scales while the melodic line jumps
around, a reverse of the initial theme.
o The second sequence is a restatement of the theme, only moved up a fifth.
Duration
The duration of minore II is very similar to that of the theme, except slightly slower (MM
crotchet=144)
Dynamics and Expressive Techniques
Like the rest of the piece, the dynamics start out soft (p) then gets louder as each sequence
is introduced.
Structure
9 bar phrases separated into 3 sequences.
Texture
Homophonic texture
Thin due to the slower tempo, soft dynamics and the single line meloldy
Coda
The coda stands almost completely outside the piece, using a theme of a sighing phrases to
bring the piece to a finish. The melody moves in small steps up and down and
is made up of minums and semibreves, creating a relaxing and tired atmosphere. Although starting
off softly (p), the coda continues to decrescendo throughout, while also gradually slowing down (rit.)
bringing out a warm tone colour in the piano. This tone colour is also created through the use of long
sustained pedal notes in the bass , which slightly thickens the texture just
enough in order to create the warm, magical ending.