The final bar of the introduction of Schumann's grand sonata op. 11 in F# minor has a pp stacked below the two final whole notes in the bass stave:

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How should this dynamic indication be interpreted with respect to the final two-lined C# in the treble stave? Should the C# in the treble inherit the fortissimo from the previous treble notes or should the C# also be played pianissimo? I think it would be obvious that it should be pianissimo if the pp had been put between the staves as for the previous ff sign, but since the pp is put below the bass stave, it makes me more unsure.

  • 1
    What the heck's the time signature? 20/?
    – Tim
    Commented Sep 10, 2016 at 14:49
  • @Tim The introduction is 3/4, but this is just a cadenza at the end of it.
    – Richard
    Commented Sep 10, 2016 at 16:12
  • @Richard - and how does one 'play' the 'paused rest' at the end? Raising the hands majestically, I suppose.
    – Tim
    Commented Sep 10, 2016 at 16:20
  • @Tim As noted, this cadenza is at the end of the introduction to the sonata. The rest is necessary. Commented Sep 13, 2016 at 19:20
  • @KyleStrand - Now it makes sense. But I've seen similar at the end of pieces...
    – Tim
    Commented Sep 13, 2016 at 20:03

3 Answers 3


I'd play the bass notes pp and the treble ff. There seems no other reason for placing the pp at the bass. It looks like a kind of echo effect.


I think the notation is clear. Schumann was fond of experimenting with pianistic "effects".

Here's a performance that ignores the ff. (And which, to my mind distorts the melody by applying excessive rubato and hammering out the accompanying arpeggios. A prime example of a classical pianist refusing to let music have any simplicity and overdoing the "expression". Compare many performances of Beethoven's "Moonlight" movement.)

Kissin has a better awareness of the melody, and follows Schumann's dynamics as written.

  • Thanks for the interesting viewpoints and the videos. So if I interpret you correctly, the C# in the treble should be played ff? Commented Sep 10, 2016 at 13:51
  • @HåkonHægland Yes, and I'd agree. Note that the notes of the lower register tend to last longer when let ring than the notes in the upper register, so I think Schumann was expecting that the audience might not even hear the bottom note until somewhat after the attack. Commented Sep 13, 2016 at 19:22

pp in the left, ff in the right. Listen to Andras Schiff. There is also a masterclass with him on this movement.

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