My parents’ best friends lived in Leeds and I was a keen pianist so in my middle and late teens I was able to go to the early rounds of the Leeds piano competition – usually a couple of sessions each time.
It was great for getting to know new items of core repertoire and I can still remember the thrill of the last page of Chopin’s 3rd Ballade, and steely staccato semiquavers in Kreisleriana no 7 and the beauty of the slower numbers. And I wouldn’t be honest if I did not say that my attention would waver and I would start to long for the end of the session – they may have been 3 hours long.
In those days competitors’ programmes were built from lists of pieces and the Schumann Novellette featured in 1981 (programme here) and the passionate opening and the glorious ‘horn’ call section have stayed in the mind. Yes, I bought the Schumann volume containing it, but my practice methods at the time were insufficient for me to learn it. I have now come back to it.
I have to admit I’m not sure the piece retains the same level of inspiration throughout and it doesn’t seem to be as much recorded or played as many other works. Interestingly another Leeds discovery the Humoreske suffers similarly.
In the learning process I split the piece into sections and made myself attack my favourite bits last.
I think there are some bits where it will be tempting to play too loud for too long (one section I refer to by the name ‘stompy’) but there are some typically Schumannesque reflective moments.
Here is that horn call.
And here are 2 versions from Youtube