Robert Schumann

Robert Schumann

Robert Schumann, [Daverio, Grove online. According to Daverio, there is no evidence of a middle name "Alexander" which is given in some sources.] sometimes given as Robert Alexander Schumann, [Scholes, page 932.] (June 8, 1810 – July 29, 1856) was a German composer, aesthete and influential music critic. He is one of the most famous Romantic composers of the 19th century.

He had hoped to pursue a career as a virtuoso pianist, having been assured by his teacher Friedrich Wieck that he could become the finest pianist in Europe after only a few years of study with him. However, a hand injury prevented those hopes from being realized, and he decided to focus his musical energies on composition. Schumann's published compositions were, until 1840, all for the piano; he later composed works for piano and orchestra, many lieder (songs for voice and piano), four symphonies, an opera, and other orchestral, choral and chamber works. His writings about music appeared mostly in the "Neue Zeitschrift für Musik" ("The New Journal for Music"), a Leipzig-based publication that he jointly founded.

In 1840, after a long and acrimonious legal battle with his piano instructor Friedrich Wieck, Schumann married Wieck's daughter, pianist Clara Wieck, a considerable figure of the Romantic period in her own right. Clara Wieck showcased many works by her husband as well. For the last two years of his life, after an attempted suicide, Schumann was confined to a mental institution.


Early life

Schumann was born in Zwickau, Saxony the fifth and last child of the family. [Ostwald, page 11] Although Schumann began to compose before the age of seven, his father, August Schumann, was a bookseller, publisher, and novelist [cite book
author = Robert Schumann
editor = Konrad Wolff
translator = Paul Rosenfeld
title = On Music and Musicians
year = 1982
publisher = University of California Press
isbn = 9780520046856
] , and his boyhood was spent in the cultivation of literature as much as it was spent in music.At the age of 14, he wrote an essay on the aesthetics of music and also contributed to a volume, edited by his father, titled "Portraits of Famous Men." While still at school in Zwickau he read the works of the German poet-philosophers Friedrich Schiller and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, as well as Byron and the Greek tragedians. His most powerful and permanent literary inspiration was Jean Paul, whose influence is seen in Schumann's youthful novels "Juniusabende", completed in 1826, and "Selene".

Schumann's interest in music was prompted as a child by the performance of Ignaz Moscheles playing at Carlsbad, and he developed an interest in the works of Beethoven, Franz Schubert and Felix Mendelssohn later. His father, however, who had encouraged the boy's musical aspirations, died in 1826, and neither his mother nor his guardian would encourage a career for him in music. In 1828 he left school, and after a tour, during which he met Heinrich Heine in Munich, he went to Leipzig to study law. In 1829 his law studies continued in Heidelberg.


During Easter, 1830 he heard Niccolò Paganini play in Frankfurt. In July he wrote to his mother, "My whole life has been a struggle between Poetry and Prose, or call it Music and Law." By Christmas he was back in Leipzig, taking piano lessons from his old master, Friedrich Wieck who assured him that he would be a successful concert pianist.

During his studies with Wieck, Schumann permanently injured his right hand. One suggested cause of this injury is that he damaged his finger by the use of a mechanical device designed to strengthen the weakest fingers, which held back one finger while he exercised the others. Others have suggested that the injury was a side-effect of syphilis medication. A more dramatic idea is that in an attempt to increase the independence of his fourth finger, he may have carried out a surgical procedure to separate the tendons of the fourth finger from those of the third. Whatever the cause of the injury, Schumann abandoned ideas of a concert career and devoted himself instead to composition. To this end he began a course of theory under Heinrich Dorn, the conductor of the Leipzig opera. About this time he considered composing an opera on the subject of Hamlet.


The fusion of the literary idea with its musical illustration, which may be said to have first taken shape in "Papillons" (op. 2), is foreshadowed to some extent in the first criticism by Schumann, an essay on Frédéric Chopin's variations on a theme from Mozart's "Don Giovanni", which appeared in the "Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung" in 1831. Here the work is discussed by the imaginary characters Florestan (the embodiment of Schumann's passionate, voluble side) and Eusebius (his dreamy, introspective side) – the counterparts of Vult and Walt in Jean Paul's novel "Flegeljahre." A third, Meister Raro, is called upon for his opinion. Raro may represent either the composer himself, Wieck's daughter Clara, or the combination of the two (Clara + Robert).However, by the time Schumann had written "Papillons" in 1831 he went a step further. The scenes and characters of his favorite novel had now passed definitely and consciously into the written music, and in a letter from Leipzig (April 1832) he bids his brothers "read the last scene in Jean Paul's "Flegeljahre" as soon as possible, because the "Papillons" are intended as a musical representation of that masquerade."

In the winter of 1832 Schumann visited his relations at Zwickau and Schneeberg, where he performed the first movement of his Symphony in G minor. In Zwickau, the music was performed at a concert given by Wieck's daughter Clara, who was only eleven then (she was born September 13, 1819). On this occasion Clara played bravura Variations by Herz, a composer who Schumann was already opposing as a philistine (see his musical Journal). It was also on this occasion that Robert's mother said to Clara, "You must marry my Robert one day." (Berthold Litzmann 1910). The G minor Symphony was never published by Schumann, but has been played and recorded since then. The death of his brother Julius as well as that of his sister-in-law Rosalie in 1833 seems to have affected Schumann with a profound melancholy, leading to his first apparent attempt at suicide.

"Die neue Zeitschrift für Musik"

By the spring of 1834, Schumann had sufficiently recovered to inaugurate "Die Neue Zeitschrift für Musik" ("New Journal in Music"), first published on April 3, 1834. Schumann published most of his critical writings in the Journal, and often lambasted the popular taste for flashy technical displays from figures Schumann perceived as inferior composers. Schumann campaigned to revive interest in major composers of the past, including Mozart, Beethoven and Weber, while he also promoted the work of some contemporary composers, including Chopin (who did not like Schumann's work) [Vladimir Asheknazy's notes, Favourite Chopin] and Berlioz, whom he praised for creating music of substance. On the other hand, Schumann disparaged the school of Liszt and Wagner. Amongst his associates were the composers Ludwig Schunke, the dedicatee of Schumann's "Toccata in C", and Norbert Burgmüller.

Schumann's editorial duties, which kept him occupied during the summer of 1834, were interruptedFact|date=January 2008 by his relations with Ernestine von Fricken, a girl of 16 years old, to whom he became engaged. She was the adopted daughter of a rich Bohemian, from whose variations on a theme Schumann constructed his own "Symphonic Etudes". The engagement was broken off by Schumann, due to the burgeoning of his love for the 15-year-old Clara Wieck. Flirtatious exchanges in the spring of 1835 led to their first kiss on the steps outside Wieck’s house in November and mutual declarations of love the next month in Zwickau, where Clara appeared in concert. Having learned in August that Ernestine von Fricken’s was of illegitimate birth, which meant that she would have no dowry, and fearful that her limited means would force him to earn his living like a ‘day-labourer’, Schumann engineered a complete break towards the end of the year. But his idyll with Clara was soon brought to an unceremonious end. When her father became aware of their nocturnal trysts during the Christmas holidays, he summarily forbade them further meetings.


"Carnaval" (op. 9, 1834) is one of Schumann's most genial and most characteristic piano works. Schumann begins nearly every section of "Carnaval" with the musical notes signified in German by the letters that spell Asch (A, E-flat, C, and B, or alternatively A-flat, C, and B; in German these are A, Es, C and H, and As C and H respectively), the town (then in Bohemia, now in the Czech Republic) in which Ernestine was born, and the notes are also the musical letters in Schumann's own name. Schumann named sections for both Ernestine von Fricken ("Estrella") and Clara Wieck ("Chiarina"). Eusebius and Florestan, the imaginary figures appearing so often in his critical writings, also appear, alongside brilliant imitations of Chopin and Paganini. The work comes to a close with a march of the "Davidsbündler" — the league of the men of David against the Philistines in which may be heard the clear accents of truth in contest with the dull clamour of falsehood embodied in a quotation from the seventeenth century "Grandfather's Dance". In "Carnaval", Schumann went further than in "Papillons", for in it he himself conceived the story for which it was the musical illustration.


On October 3, 1835, Schumann met Mendelssohn at Wieck's house in Leipzig, and his appreciation of his great contemporary was shown with the same generous freedom that distinguished him in all his relations to other musicians, and which later enabled him to recognize the genius of Johannes Brahms, whom he first met in 1853 before he had established a reputation.

In 1836 Schumann's acquaintance with Clara Wieck, already famous as a pianist, ripened into love. A year later he asked her father's consent to their marriage, but was refused.

In the series "Fantasiestücke" for the piano (op. 12) he once more gives a sublime illustration of the fusion of literary and musical ideas as embodied conceptions in such pieces as "Warum" and "In der Nacht". After he had written the latter of these two he detected in the music the fanciful suggestion of a series of episodes from the story of Hero and Leander. The collection begins (in Des Abends) with a notable example of Schumann's predeliction for rhythmic ambiguity, as unrelieved syncopation plays heavily against the time signature just as in the first movement of "Faschingsschwank aus Wien". After a nicely told fable, and the appropriately titled "Dream's Confusion," the whole collection ends on an introspective note in the manner of Eusebius.

The "Kinderszenen", completed in 1838, a favourite of Schumann's piano works, is playful and childlike, and in a wonderfully fresh way captures the innocence of childhood. The "Träumerei" is one of the most famous piano pieces ever written, and exists in myriad forms and transcriptions, and has been the favourite encore of several artists, including Vladimir Horowitz. Although deceptively simple, Alban Berg, in reply to charges that modern music was overly complex, pointed out that this piece is in no way as simple as it appears in its harmonic structure. The whole collection is deceptive in its simplicity, yet genuinely touching and refreshing.

The "Kreisleriana", which is considered one of his greatest works, was also written in 1838, and in this the composer's fantasy and emotional range is again carried a step further. Johannes Kreisler, the romantic poet brought into contact with the real world, was a character drawn from life: the poet E. T. A. Hoffmann (q.v.), and Schumann utilized him as an imaginary mouthpiece for the sonic expression of emotional states, in music that is "fantastic and mad."

The "Fantasia in C" (Op. 17), written in the summer of 1836, is a work of passion and deep pathos, imbued with the spirit of late Beethoven. This is no doubt deliberate, since the proceeds from sales of the work were initially intended to be contributed towards the construction of a monument to Beethoven. According to Liszt, (Strelezki: "Personal Recollections of Chats with Liszt") who played the work to the composer, and to whom the work was dedicated, the Fantasy was apt to be played too heavily, and should have a dreamier ("träumerisch") character than vigorous German pianists tended to labour. He also said, "It is a noble work, worthy of Beethoven, whose career, by the way, it is supposed to represent." [Anton Strelezki: "Personal Recollections of Chats with Liszt." London, 1893.]

In 1837 Schumann published his "Études symphoniques", a complex set of variations written in 1834-1835, demanding powerful technique.

After a visit to Vienna during which he discovered Schubert's previously unknown "Symphony No. 9 in C", in 1839 Schumann wrote the "Faschingsschwank aus Wien", i.e. the Carnival Prank from Vienna. Most of the joke is in the central section of the first movement, into which a thinly veiled reference to the “Marseillaise”—then banned in Vienna—is squeezed. The festive mood does not preclude moments of melancholic introspection in the Intermezzo.

In 1840, after a long and acrimonious legal battle with her father, Schumann married Clara Wieck on September 12, 1840, at Schönefeld.


Before 1840, Schumann had written almost exclusively for the piano, but in this one year he wrote 168 songs. Schumann's biographers have attributed the sweetness, the doubt and the despair of these songs to the varying emotions aroused by his love for Clara. This view is treated with skepticism by some modern scholars, especially since Dichterliebe, with its themes of rejection and acceptance, was written when his marriage was no longer in doubt. Robert and Clara were to have seven children.

His chief song-cycles of this period were his settings of the "Liederkreis" of J. von Eichendorff (op. 39), the "Frauenliebe und -leben" of Chamisso (op. 42), the "Dichterliebe" of Heine (op. 48) and "Myrthen", a collection of songs, including poems by Goethe, Rückert, Heine, Byron, Burns and Moore. The songs "Belsatzar" (op. 57) and "Die beiden Grenadiere" (op. 49), each to Heine's words, show Schumann at his best as a ballad writer, though the dramatic ballad is less congenial to him than the introspective lyric.The opus 35 (to words of Justinus Kerner) and opus 40 sets, although less well known, also contain songs of lyric and dramatic quality.

As Grillparzer said, "He has made himself a new ideal world in which he moves almost as he wills."

Despite his achievements, Schumann received few tokens of honour; he was awarded a doctoral degree by the University of Jena in 1840, and in 1843 a professorship in the Conservatorium of Leipzig, which had been founded that year by Felix Mendelssohn. On one occasion, accompanying his wife on a concert tour in Russia, Schumann was asked whether 'he too was a musician'. He was to remain sensitive to his wife's greater international acclaim as a pianist.

In 1841 he wrote two of his four symphonies. The year 1842 he devoted to the composition of chamber music, which included the piano quintet (op. 44), now one of his best known and most admired works. In 1843 he wrote "Paradise and the Peri", his first essay at concerted vocal music. After this, his compositions were not confined during any particular period to any one form.

The stage in his life when he was deeply engaged in his music to Goethe's "Faust" (1844–1853) was a critical one for his health. The first half of the year 1844 had been spent with his wife in Russia. On returning to Germany he had abandoned his editorial work, and left Leipzig for Dresden, where he suffered from what was referred to as persistent “nervous prostration”. As soon as he began to work he was seized with fits of shivering and an apprehension of death, which was exhibited in an abhorrence for high places, for all metal instruments (even keys), and for drugs. Schumann's diaries also state that he suffered perpetually from imagining that he had the note A sounding in his ears. In 1846 he had recovered and in the winter revisited Vienna, traveling to Prague and Berlin in the spring of 1847 and in the summer to Zwickau, where he was received with enthusiasm--gratifying because Dresden and Leipzig were the only large cities in which his fame was at this time appreciated.

To 1848 belongs his only opera, "Genoveva" (op. 81), a work containing much beautiful music, but lacking dramatic force. It is interesting for its attempt to abolish the recitative, which Schumann regarded as an interruption to the musical flow. The subject of "Genoveva", based on Johann Ludwig Tieck and Hebbel, was in itself not a particularly happy choice; but it is worth remembering that as early as 1842 the possibilities of German opera had been keenly realized by Schumann, who wrote, "Do you know my prayer as an artist, night and morning? It is called 'German Opera.' Here is a real field for enterprise [...] something simple, profound, German." And in his notebook of suggestions for the text of operas are found amongst others: "Nibelungen", "Lohengrin" and "Til Eulenspiegel". Schumann's consistently flowing melody in this work can be seen as a forerunner to Wagner's "Melos".

The music to Byron's "Manfred" is preeminent in a year (1849) in which he wrote more than in any other. The insurrection of Dresden caused Schumann to move to Kreischa, a little village a few miles outside the city. In August of this year, on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of Goethe's birth, such scenes of Schumann's "Faust" as were already completed were performed in Dresden, Leipzig and Weimar, Liszt, as always giving unwearied assistance and encouragement. The rest of the work was written in the latter part of the year, and the overture in 1853. This overture Schumann described as "one of the sturdiest of my creations."

After 1850

From 1850 to 1854, the nature of Schumann's works is extremely varied. The popular belief that the quality of his music quickly decayed has been questioned: the changes in style may be explained by lucid experimentation. [Daverio, Grove online, 19]

In 1850 Schumann succeeded Ferdinand Hiller as musical director at Düsseldorf; Schumann was a poor conductor and quickly aroused the opposition of the musicians, leading eventually to the termination of his contract. From 1851 to 1853 he visited Switzerland and Belgium as well as Leipzig. In 1851 he completed his "Rhenish Symphony", and he revised what would be published as his fourth symphony. On September 30, 1853, the 20-year-old Brahms knocked unannounced on the door of the Schumanns carrying a letter of introduction from the violinist Joseph Joachim; he amazed both Clara and Robert with his music, stayed with them for several weeks and became a close family friend. During this time Schumann, Brahms and Schumann's pupil Albert Dietrich collaborated on the composition of the 'F-A-E' Sonata for the violinist Joseph Joachim; Schumann also published an article, “"Neue Bahnen"” (New Paths) hailing the unknown young composer from Hamburg, who had published nothing, as “the Chosen One” who would “give ideal expression to the Age.” It was an extraordinary way for Brahms to be presented to the musical world, setting up enormous expectations of him which he did not fulfill for many years. In January 1854, Schumann went to Hannover, where he heard a performance of his "Paradise and the Peri" organized by Joachim and Brahms.

Soon after his return to Düsseldorf, where he was engaged in editing his complete works and making an anthology on the subject of music, a renewal of the symptoms that had threatened him earlier showed itself. Besides the single note, he now imagined that voices sounded in his ear and he heard angelic music. One night he suddenly left his bed, telling Clara that Schubert and Mendelssohn had sent him a theme — in truth, he was merely recalling his own violin concerto — which he must write down, and on this theme he wrote five variations for the piano, his last work. Brahms published the theme in a supplementary volume to the complete edition of Schumann's piano music, and in 1861 himself wrote a substantial set of variations upon it for piano duet, his Op. 23.

In late February Schumann's symptoms increased, the angelic visions sometimes being replaced by demonic visions. He warned Clara that he feared he might do her harm. On February 27, 1854, he attempted suicide by throwing himself from a bridge into the Rhine. Rescued by boatmen and taken home, he asked to be taken to an asylum for the insane. He entered Dr. Franz Richarz's sanitarium in Endenich, a quarter of Bonn, and remained there for more than two years, until his death.

Given his reported symptoms, one modern view is that his death was a result of syphilis, which he may have contracted during his student days, and which would have remained latent during most of his marriage. [Reich, Nancy B., "Clara Schumann: The Artist and the Woman," Cornell University Press, 1985, p. 151.] According to studies by the musicologist and literary scholar Eric Sams, Schumann's symptoms during his terminal illness and death appear consistent with those of mercury poisoning, mercury being a common treatment for syphilis and other conditions. Schumann died on July 29, 1856, and was buried at the Zentral Friedhof, Bonn. In 1880, a statue by Adolf von Donndorf was erected on his tomb.

From the time of her husband's death, Clara devoted herself principally to the interpretation of her husband's works. In 1856, she first visited England, but the critics received Schumann's music coolly, with some critics such as Henry Fothergill Chorley particularly harsh in their disapproval. She returned to London in 1865 and made regular appearances there in subsequent years. She became the authoritative editor of her husband's works for Breitkopf und Härtel. It was rumored that she and Brahms destroyed many of Schumann's later works that they thought to be tainted by his madness. However, only the Five Pieces for Cello and Piano are known to have been destroyed. Most of Schumann's late works, particularly the violin concerto, the "Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra" and the third violin sonata, all from 1853, have entered the repertoire.


Schumann exerted considerable influence in the nineteenth century and beyond, despite his adoption of more conservative modes of composition after his marriage. He left an array of acclaimed music in virtually all the forms then known. Partly through his protégé Brahms, Schumann's ideals and musical vocabulary became widely disseminated. Elgar called Schumann "my ideal."

Schumann has not often been confused with the Austrian composer Franz Schubert, but one well-known example occurred in 1956, when East Germany issued a pair of stamps featuring Schumann's picture, against an open score that featured Schubert's music. The stamps were soon replaced by a pair featuring music written by Schumann.


*List of compositions by Robert Schumann


Media files for the "Kinderszenen" can be found with the article on them.


* Daverio, J, "Robert Schumann," "Grove music online", L Macy (ed), accessed June 24, 2007 [ (subscription access)]
* Ostwald, Peter, "Schumann — The inner voices of a musical genius", Northeastern University Press, Boston, 1985 ISBN 1555530141.
* Scholes, Percy A, "The Oxford Companion to Music, Tenth Edition", Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1970 ISBN 0-19-311306-61.


Further reading


External links

Life and works

* [ Robert Schumann (1810-1856)]
* [ Complete list of works]
* [ Musical Rules at Home and in Life] - Text by Robert Schumann
* [ Robert Schumann: Then, Now and Always comprehensive website]
* [ The Davidsbündler against the Philistines]
* [ Robert Schumann Society, Düsseldorf]
*worldcat id|id=lccn-n50-565
* [ German Label Troubadisc with SACD release and Biography of Robert Schumann]
* [ Schumann-Portal]

heet music

* [ Schumann's Complete Piano Works] Free Public Domain Scores in PDF
* [] Schumann's complete Piano Works
* [ Schubertline] Schumann's songs in the Schubertline (digital) edition
*IMSLP|id=Schumann%2C_Robert|cname=Robert Schumann
* [ Schumann's Scores] by Mutopia Project
*gutenberg author| id=Robert+Schumann | name=Robert Schumann
*IckingArchive|idx=Schumann|name=Robert Schumann

Recordings and MIDI

* [ Schumann cylinder recordings] , from the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara Library.
* [ Recording of "Kinderszenen" ("Scenes from Childhood")]
* [ works for organ or pedal piano by Schumann played on a virtual organ]
* [ Selected Lieder (MIDI)]
*Kunst der Fuge [ Robert Schumann - MIDI files]

NAME= Schumann, Robert
SHORT DESCRIPTION= Composer, pianist
DATE OF BIRTH= June 8, 1810
PLACE OF BIRTH= Zwickau, Germany
DATE OF DEATH= July 29, 1856
PLACE OF DEATH=Endenich, Germany

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