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Joined: Dec 2011
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How would you rate the technical difficulty of these following pieces?

First of all, of Schubert’s last 6 sonatas; D 845, D 850, D 894 and D 958, D 959 and D 960, how would you rate them from easiest to hardest technically?

And among Schumann’s piano cycles, Davidsbundlertänze, Carnaval, Symphonic etudes and Kreisleriana, how would you rate them from easiest to hardest technically?

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According to Henle's 1-9 numerical grading:

Schumann
Op. 6: 7
Op. 9: individual numbers rated 3-8
Op. 13: 9
Op. 16: 8

Schubert
D. 845: 7
D. 850: 8
D. 894: 7
D. 958: 8
D. 959: 8
D. 960: 7

And for reference, D. 760 is rated 9


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I do not always find Henle’s gradings accurate. For exemple they give Chopin’s 4th scherzo a 7, which I find to be absurd since the piece is technically bery difficult and musically just as much. Davidsbundlertänze a 7 is also absurd to me. Why is it considered easier than the other mentioned works by Schumann? Musically it is very complicated. It is long. And some of the pieces are very difficult technically. If anybody here is familiar with these works by Schumann, why is Davidsbundlertänze always considered relatively easier than the others?

And as for Schubert, I find D 845 very challenging. The last movement is a beast, the scherzo is very difficult and the second movement has some very difficult passages too. D 959 though, I found much easier technically. So I dont know how their rating works. Has anyone here played D 959, D 845 Davidsbundlertänze?

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Yes, Henle here is particularly inaccurate.

Now among the 4 Schumann works, all of them are very close to each other in difficulty. Musically, Kreisleriana and Davidsbundlertanze are the hardest. Technically, Op.13 and Op.9 are flashier but I wouldn't say harder. The hardest movements of Op.16 and Op.6 are extremely awkward and are as difficult as anything else in the standard repertoire.

For example, Op.6 No.6 and Op.6 No.13 contain exactly the kind of awkward technique that makes Brahms so difficult to play, and a similar level of unpianistic difficulty can be found in Op.16 No.3 (the coda) and Op.16 No.7.

If anything, Op.13 and Op.9 are more pianistic than the other two. If I would have to rank them, they would all be at the highest end of standard repertoire next to pieces like the Chopin 3rd Sonata and the Brahms Handel variations.

But to be more specific: Davidsbündlertänze, Kreisleriana, Symphonic Etudes, Carnaval

Last edited by achoo42; 10/27/21 01:52 PM.
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Originally Posted by achoo42
Yes, Henle here is particularly inaccurate.

Now among the 4 Schumann works, all of them are very close to each other in difficulty. Musically, Kreisleriana and Davidsbundlertanze are the hardest. Technically, Op.13 and Op.9 are flashier but I wouldn't say harder. The hardest movements of Op.16 and Op.6 are extremely awkward and are as difficult as anything else in the standard repertoire.

For example, Op.6 No.6 and Op.6 No.13 contain exactly the kind of awkward technique that makes Brahms so difficult to play, and a similar level of unpianistic difficulty can be found in Op.16 No.3 (the coda) and Op.16 No.7.

If anything, Op.13 and Op.9 are more pianistic than the other two. If I would have to rank them, they would all be at the highest end of standard repertoire next to pieces like the Chopin 3rd Sonata and the Brahms Handel variations.

But to be more specific: Davidsbündlertänze, Kreisleriana, Symphonic Etudes, Carnaval

I would be inclined to agree with you. But when you say ”But to be more specific: Davidsbündlertänze, Kreisleriana, Symphonic Etudes, Carnaval”, do you mean Carnaval is the easiest or the hardest?

Do you have any experience with the Schubert Sonatas?

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Carnaval the easiest, but still in the top echelon of standard repertoire.

I have listened to the Schubert sonatas plenty but have not played them enough to make an educated guess.

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Originally Posted by achoo42
Carnaval the easiest, but still in the top echelon of standard repertoire.

I have listened to the Schubert sonatas plenty but have not played them enough to make an educated guess.

Have you played these pieces? Why would you say Davidsbundlertänze is the hardest?

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Originally Posted by Franz Beebert
I do not always find Henle’s gradings accurate. For exemple they give Chopin’s 4th scherzo a 7, which I find to be absurd since the piece is technically bery difficult and musically just as much
I very much agree with what you're saying here. Henle's rating system's biggest strength is that it ranks some of the most difficult repertoire but that area seems to be the most inaccurate. Beethoven Op. 79 is the funniest Henle 7 there is...

As to answer the original question, all the late Schubert sonatas are very difficult and I haven't played them in order to rank them. I want to one day but at the moment they're still a bit too imposing. There's a lot of textures and touches that are required in these sonatas that don't come without many years of study. One of the stranger quotes I recall is somebody saying that taking the repeat in the first movement of D960 is one of the most difficult tasks as to keep it interesting for the audience. I'm still criminally unfamiliar with Schumann, so I can't comment on those.


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