Robert Schumann

From Wind Repertory Project
Robert Schumann


Robert Schumann (8 June 1810, Zwickau - 29 July 1856, Endenich) was a German composer.

Schumann was the son of a bookseller. He early showed ability as a pianist and an interest in composing as well as literary interests. In 1821, he went to Leipzig to study law but instead spent his time in musical, social and literary activities. He wrote some piano music and took lessons from Friedrich Wieck. After a his time in Heidelberg, ostensibly studying law but actually music, he persuaded his family that he should give up law in favor of a pianist's career. In 1830, he went to live with Wieck at Leipzig. He soon had trouble with his hands (allegedly due to a machine to strengthen his fingers, but more likely through remedies for a syphilitic sore).

In 1834, Schumann founded a music journal, the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik. He was its editor and leading writer for ten years. He was a brilliant and perceptive critic: his writings embody the most progressive aspects of musical thinking in his time, and he drew attention to many promising young composers. Sometimes he wrote under pseudonyms, Eusebius (representing his lyrical, contemplative side) and Florestan (his fiery, impetuous one); he used these in his music, too. His compositions at this time were mainly for piano: they include variations on the name of one of his lady friends, Abegg (the musical notes A-B-E-G-G), the character-pieces Davidsbündlertänze ('Dances of the league of David', an imaginary association of those fighting the Philistines), Carnaval (pieces with literary or other allusive meanings, including one on the notes A-S-C-H after the place another girl friend came from), Phantasiestücke (a collection of poetic pieces depicting moods), Kreisleriana (fantasy pieces around the character of a mad Kapellmeister) and Kinderszenen ('Scenes from Childhood').

Affairs of the heart played a large part in his life. By 1835, he was in love with Wieck's young daughter Clara, but Wieck did his best to separate them. In 1837, they became engaged to marry, but spent much time apart and Schumann went through deep depressions. In 1839, they took legal steps to make Wieck's consent unnecessary, and after many further trials they were able to marry in 1840. In that year, Schumann turned to song writint. He wrote approximately 150 songs, including most of his finest, at this time, among them several groups and cycles, the latter including Frauenliebe und -leben ('A Woman's Love and Life') and Dichterliebe ('A Poet's Love'), which tells (to verse by Heine) a tragic Romantic story of the flowering of love, its failure and poet's exclusion from joy and his longing for death.

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