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Compare and Contrast Two Pieces of Music

This paper seeks to compare and contrast two pieces of music that was composed and enjoyed in two different centuries. Robert Schumann composed and developed Carnaval, while Sergei Prokofiev developed Romeo and Juliet. Both artists borrowed ideas from people who were renown before their respective times. Prokofievs work was borrowed from William Shakespeare’s ancient Romeo and Juliet while Schumann’s work had been improved from Ludwig Schuncke’s work. However, this did not create any bad taste of the songs but rather rejuvenated their tastes.

Despite being in existence during different eras, they both had their similarities. Both were piano works and therefore had much in common in terms of instruments. They were also structured and both works were divided into different parts.

They also had several differences. This could be attributed to their difference in times of development and existence. Their forms were different and the rhythm was different as well. While Romeo and Juliet piece was welcome and well danced ballet dance by the people, since it was well know, Carnaval was very different and there were no recognized keys and rhythms that could properly define the rhythm. This was notable from the fact that it had difficulties in dancing and it was rarely performed in public. Some people even argued that it was not a song thus could not be danced.

This paper is discussing on character pieces from two different centuries.

1. Compare Robert Schumann's piano work "Carnaval" and Sergei Prokofiev's piano work "Romeo and Juliet."

Robert Schumann’s Carnaval was a piano art work that was written in Germany between 1834 and 1835, and was subtitled ‘Little Scenes on Four Titles.’ The work involves a collection of several short pieces that occur during the period just before lent, a period known as Carnival. Schumann uses the music on himself and other characters that are obtained from commedia dellarte, which is an Italian comedy

Romeo and Juliet was a play that was first done by William Shakespeare. Sergei Prokofiev, who was Russian then came and performed a ballet dance based on Shakespeare work and developed among the most popular ballet dances of its time. The first of his plays was done on September 1935. Though there were claims that the dance was undancable, it was later developed into a creative move that was like by most people.

In both cases, the art developers have used piano as a major instrument. In Schuman’s work, the piano and orchestra were the main variation forms that formed the main catalysts to write the works. In this case there was a heavy use of the piano which created the major part of the music creation. Despite the death of Ludwig Schuncke, who had played a major part in the development of the work, in 1934, the marvelous piece of artwork that would then grow famous was developed and publicized by Schuman. In Romeo and Juliet case, there were many instruments that had been used. However, among the main instruments was the piano. The other instruments such as the oboes and flutes were used in the artwork. There were also other repercussion instruments, strings and brass instruments.

Both works are divided into several sections. Carnaval has 22 sections, though only 20 of these are numbered whereas Romeo and Juliet has nine scenes including the epilogue. The divisions in the piano work are important in bringing out the best understanding by the audience. A continuous performance of the art works may be boring and there could possess only a small significance in passing the message or even enjoyment. The parts that both works have been divided create suspense between them, changes the mood and the beginning of the next part brings suspense and some curiosity from the audience.

Another similarity is that there they are both derived from other peoples works. Most notably, Romeo and Juliet was a development of Shakespeare’s work which worked well. However, there were several issues that changed and the birth of Sergei Prokofiev’s work emerged. At the same time, Carnal was developed from another person’s work. It is however notable that there was little resemblance between the original work and the developed work. Schumann used Schuncke’s work which he learnt about in 1927. After years of interaction, he tried to develop Schuncke’s work and he succeeded by coming up with Carnaval which was loved by many people who lived at that time in Germany. It is however notable that there was a difference in that the original; music developer in Rome and Juliet did not exist at the same time as Sergei Prokofiev, who came to develop his work long after his death. However, the second case was different since the two composers worked together and Schuncke died in December 1934 which was a few months prior to the release of the developed form of music he was good in.

2. Both pieces are "character piece." how are they same, and how are they different? (musical structure)

Schumann believed that there was need to have his works notes encoded in a manner that would only allow only a few people to detect the message it carried. The four notes that were encoded were connected to the 21 pieces. The piano work had 21 pieces that were connected by a motif which was co-joined. This resulted into the appearance of musical notes in the art work. The notes appeared as follows: A, E-flat, C,B and A-flat, C, B as well as E-flat, B, A. These notes simply encoded his name, the name of his fiancé and the name of the first day of lent, Ash Wednesday.


Carnaval’s music had a close relationship from his friends work Ludwig Schuncke. However, his work was more intimate in the application of variations. He used Schuncke’s work in 24 measures that were used in the opening of Carnaval, after Schuncke’s death in 1834.

The table below shows examples of the first ten sections of Carnaval out of the numbered 20.






E-flat, Moderato


B-flat, Vivo

Valse noble



E-flat, Adagio


G minor, Passionato


B-flat, Vivo


B-flat-G minor,  L'istesso tempo


(B-flat: Prestissimo)

A.S.C.H. - S.C.H.A: Lettres Dansantes

(E-flat; Presto)

Below are examples of the parts in Romeo and Juliet in the first scene of Act one in English in their order of occurrences.

  • Introduction,
  • Romeo,
  • The street awakens
  • Morning dance
  • The quarrel
  • The fight
  • The prince gives his order
  • Interlude

In other words there are necessary divisions on the art work by the two artists in order to bring out their intended objectives and perceptions of the audience.


In Carnaval, each piece has a title and holds more attributes to music than in many other earlier pieces of art. Schuman argues that there is a better understanding of the theme and content of the songs if music is used in the correct passage and order. The chordal passages in Carnaval became very famous during its time, as well as the use of rhythmic displacement which has for long been branded as a staple to identify with repertoire of the pianist. Romeu and Juliets case was however different since there was more of ballet dancing than in Carvanal. Prokofiev reintroduced it as a dance than music to listen and this created more response in passage and response by the audience. This was unlike Carvanal which concentrated on piano and little dancing due to the hardness of the piece of art to dancing.

Schuman’s pieces of work are hard to dance, and he and his wife knew that. Though there were several performances, many people could not even attempt to dance to the song due to the difficulties involved and some people often described it as ‘not music.’ I however was popular despite this and was received warmly by the general public whenever it was performed. On the other had, Romeo and Juliet’s version were easily identifiable with ballet. There was nothing new and there was ease for people to dance along as the tunes used were known by many people. This was a major difference between the two since there was warmer applause for the revised Romeo’s dance than that of Carnaval during their respective times.

Romeo and Juliet case uses an ancient binary form in the music that they have developed. This has been an important feature that differentiates piano works with their ages. Simple binary form involves music that was produced or developed in the 18th and the 19th centuries. This is the category that Romeo and Juliet’s case fall under and has been well established as a 19th century piece of art. On the other hand, 20th century art follows a different course where they allow for ternary or rondo forms. Carnaval was developed in the 1930s and has there used a different form. Precisely, it uses rondo form that has a regular rhythm but has several changes along the way and this makes it have a repeated point that acts as a chorus or repetition of a kind.

Finally, Romeo and Juliet was performed as cyclical forms since there was an overreliance of ballet during dance, unlike Carnaval which was not even danceable due to the complexity of the rhythm and sequence of words and beats. This therefore forms another major differentiating factor between Carnaval and Romeo and Juliet that were performed in the 20th and 19th centuries respectively.

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