Robert Schumann's (1810-1856) interest in the organ was very limited. We know that Mendelssohn's playing of Bach's organ compositions moved him deeply, but apparently not enough for him to compose for the instrument, which during Schumann's lifetime was greatly deficient in the expressive capability developed later on.
Schumann's Sketches (Op. 58) and Canonic Studies (Op. 56) were written for the pedal-piano, a common practice instrument for organists. Known in France as the pedalier and in Germany as the Pedal-Flügel, the instrument attracted the attention of a few 19th-century notables, one being Charles Gounod, who wrote a concerto for it. The pieces heard in this recital were composed in Dresden in 1845. A fundamental problem encountered in playing the pedal-piano is the difficulty of maintaining a sensitive touch with the feet; but in any case, acquaintance with this music soon leads us to conclude that the medium was of secondary importance to Schumann, whose aim was to gain a firm command of canonic writing. In playing Numbers 2, 3, 4, and 6 on an organ with three or more keyboards, two contrasting timbres (played simultaneously with one hand on two keyboards) can be used for the canonic voices, with the accompaniment on the third manual.
- Notes © 2005, Thomas Murray