The Romantic Music of Robert Schumann

Robert Schumann in an 1850 daguerreotype

Robert Schumann in an 1850 daguerreotype

On June 8, 1810, German composer and influential music critic Robert Schumann was born. Schumann is widely regarded as one of the greatest composers of the Romantic era. Schumann left the study of law, intending to pursue a career as a virtuoso pianist, but a hand injury ended this dream of becoming one of Europe‘s finest pianists. Schumann then focused his musical energies on composing.

The musical education of Robert Schumann began at the age of six. He first studied the piano and in 1827, he came under the musical influence of the Austrian composer Franz Schubert and the literary influence of the German poet Jean Paul Richter. In the same year, Schumann began to compose own songs. At the University of Leipzig, the musician began to study law but spent most of his time composing, improvising at the piano. It is also believed that Schumann attempted to write novels. After a while, Robert Schumann abandoned law completely.

Opus 1, the Abegg Variations for piano, was published in 1831. Due to an accident of his right hand, the artist had to abandon his career as a virtuoso, but let him focus on his compositions. Schumann made great achievements during the 1830s. Papillons and Carnaval, and the Études symphoniques were composed in that period. He wrote the great Fantasy in C Major for piano and edited the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (New Journal for Music), a periodical that he had helped to found in 1834 and of which he had been editor since early 1835. Two years later, Schumann composed the Davidsbündlertänze, Phantasiestücke. In this creative period, he also managed to compose Kinderszenen, Kreisleriana, Arabeske, and more.He wrote most of Faschingsschwank and found some manuscripts by Franz Schubert, including that of the Symphony in C Major. Some of his most important works, Myrthen, the two Liederkreise on texts by Heinrich Heine and Joseph Eichendorff, and several more were composed around the 1840s. In 1840 Robert Schumann also married Clara.

Robert Schumann wrote several chamber works in 1842 and Das Paradies und die Peri was created one year later. During that time, the newly founded Leipzig Conservatory had been opened with Mendelssohn as director and Schumann as professor of “piano playing, composition, and playing from score”. He began symphony, No. 2 in C Major in 1845 and it took him about 10 years to finish. Schumann accepted a post of municipal director of music at Düsseldorf, but lost the position due to to his shortcomings as a conductor.

It is assumed that Robert Schumann had contemplated suicide several times. In 1854, the artist probably suffered from aural hallucinations. He asked to be taken to a lunatic asylum, and the next day he attempted suicide by drowning. He was transferred to the private asylum at Endenich, near Bonn, where he lived for nearly two and a half years. Robert Schumann died on 1856.

At yovisto you can learn more about The Romantic Period in a lecture by Dr. Amy F. Muchnick.

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