Robert Schumann

Robert Alexander Schumann was born in the small riverside town ofZwickau, Saxony, in 1810.The youngest of five children, Robert Schumannwas brought up in comfortable, middle-class respectability. As a child, heapparently exhibited no remarkable abilities.

At the age of six, Robert was sent to the local preparatory school, runby Archdeacon Dohner. He had in fact already begun his education, with theyoung tutor who gave lessons in exchange for board and lodging at theSchumann home. At the age of seven Robert received his first piano lessons, fromJohann Gottfried Kuntzsch, organist at St. Mary’s Church, and schoolmasterat the Zwickau Lyceum. Kuntzsch was a kindly, conservative musician oflimited abilities; his knowledge stemmed from leisure-time study.

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Nevertheless, Robert was soon improvising, and even composing a set ofdances for the piano.Robert’s musical talent was recognized by his father. He bought anexpensive Streicher grand piano for his son, and soon four-handedarrangements of the classics were heard in the Schumann home. With afriend named Friedrich Piltzing, another pupil of Kuntzch’s, Robert started toexplore Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.As a child, Schumann took part in several concerts at the ZwickauLyceum. He once played Moscheles’ Alexander March variations, whichdemanded considerable dexterity.At the public Lyceum Robert was active as both pianist and publicspeaker.

When he was fourteen, Kuntzsch decided that his pupil hadprogressed beyond the point where he could give further help, and declined toteach him anymore. Shortly before leaving the Lyceum, Schumann collaborated with hisbrother Karl in preparing a new edition of Forcellini’s Latin dictionary,Lexicon Totius Latinatinis. Although now very busy as a composer, Robert yearned for affection.He soon fell for seventeen-year-old Ernestine von Fricken, who came toLeipzig in April 1834 to live in at the Wiecks’, and to study with Clara’sfather.

She had grown up in the little town of Asch with her father, Baronvon Fricken, and was the illegitimate daughter of Countess Zedtwitz.At the beginning of September 1835 Robert and Ernestine weresecretly engaged. Within days, Baron von Fricken heard that something wasafoot, arrived in Leipzig, and took Ernestine back to Asch. After secretdiscussions, the engagement was broken off by mutual agreement. PossiblyRobert had been kept in the dark about Ernestine’s origins.

In any event, the affair had a catalytic effect on Robert’s music. He had theidea of writing a series of piano pieces based on the letters ASCH; these helater turned into Carnival. He also composed some piano variations on atheme provided by Baron von Fricken.But Robert’s friend Schunke had fallen seriously ill. Unable to bearthe sight, Robert went back to Zwickau again, only returning to Leipzig inDecember to negotiate a change of publisher for the Zeitschrift.

From thebeginning of 1835 the journal was published by the Leipzig firm of JA Barth.Late in 1835 Mendelsson arrived in Leipzig to take over as musicdirector of the Gewandhaus. Still only twenty-six, Mendelsson was thedirector of the age, and Schumann felt an immediate attraction when they metat Wieck’s house. Following the newcomer’s debut in Leipzig, Schumannwrote praising him in the “Letters of an Enthusiast” column of his Zeitzcrift.Schumann did however venture to criticise Mendelssohn’s use of the baton;he believed that an orchestra should function as a “republic” and that ridgityshould be avoided.At about this time, too, Robert met both Chopin andIgnaz Moscheles at the Wieck’s. Throughout the autumn of 1835 Schumannwas a regular visitor at the Wieck’s home, seeing much of Clara, who wasnow sixteen. He had been following her career as a virtuoso closely since shewas nine.

when he was depressed, she cheered him up. Their talent affectionwas now becoming increasingly evident. Robert had now finished his first piano sonata, dedicated “The evening Clara set out onan important concert tour, Robert came to wish her well, and kissed hergood-bye. They saw each other again in Zwickau, and kissed again.

In thenew year Robert traveled to Dresden, where he knew Clara was spending aholiday without her father, and made his declaration of love.Schumann seems to have thought Clara’s father would welcome himas his son-in-law. He was wrong. Hearing that Robert and Clara had beenmeeting behind his back, Wieck was enraged, and wrote to Robert insistingthat all relations be severed.

At the same time he distracted Clara’s attention by flaunting her anew singing teacher, Karl Banck. Clara, only just sixteen, was regarded by her father as a mere child.Wieck had nurtured her talents, and now saw her on the threshold of anoutstanding career. He was not going to stand by and watch her marrySchumann, who he knew, to his own irritation, had neglected his training andsquandered his resources.

Naturally Robert was desperate. Extravagant spending sprees led topleas to his brothers for money. He started drinking heavily, and his generallyimpolite habits led to a noisy argument with his landlady. Finally he wrote toher.To understand Wieck’s attitude, we need to examine his feelings aboutClara. She represented his special creation, his life’s work.

He had laboredwith her for long years at the keyboard. She had finally emerged as his bestpupil, the star exemplar of his techniques. At the same time she nowrepresented a valuable commercial asset. She simultaneously fed Wieck’swallet and his ego.In May 1837, after another long tour, Clara arrived back in Leipzig.Not long afterwards banck, like Schumann before him, was rejected byWieck as a suitor for Clara.

At this time Schumann’s disappointment seems tohave turned to malice. He declared himself ready to avenge himself on Clara.But this was only a temporary mood; in a letter to her in August, with words”cold and serious, yet so beautiful”, Robert protested she remained “thedearest in the world”. His feelings were echoed by his beloved.

On August 14they became sacredly engaged.On Clara’s eighteenth birth day, Robert Wrote to Wieck asking for hisconsent to their marriage. He argued that his prospects were greatlyimproved, and his stability enchanced; “You owe it to my position, my talentand my character”.The wedding finally took place on 12 September, the day beforeClara’s twenty-first birthday.

After that she would in any case free of herfather’s will. Possibly Robert chose the day as a final signal of defiance to hisnew father-in-law.Very later in their marriage Robert started to have a mental illness. Heheard a solitary note beating in Robert’s ears, giving him no peace. On 26February 1854 Robert begged Clara to have him committed to an asylum, butwas finally persuaded by the doctor to go to bed.Later Clara discovered that Robert had thrown himself into the RiverRhine, and fisherman had rescued him.On March 4 Robert was taken to Dr.

Richarz’s private asylum atEndenich, near Bonn. At intervals his mind cleared a little.On June 8 1856, Robert’s birthday, Brahams found him thin,oblivious of every thing outside, picking names out of an atlas and puttingthem into alphabetical order. On Thursday 29 July Robert was finallyreleased from his suffering. At four in the afternoon he fell asleep.

He passedaway without anyone noticing. Clara did not see him until half an hour later. Schumann was buried at seven o’clock on the morning of 31 July1856 in Bonn. Brahms and Joachin walked in front of the coffin which wascarried by some of the Dusseldorf choir.

Clara asked that a few friends bethere.That was the life and death of Robert Schumann.Words/ Pages : 1,176 / 24