Robert Alexander Biography & Facts
Robert Schumann (German: [ˈʃuːman]; 8 June 1810 – 29 July 1856) was a German composer, pianist, and influential music critic. He 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. His teacher, Friedrich Wieck, a German pianist, had assured him that he could become the finest pianist in Europe, but a hand injury ended this dream. Schumann then focused his musical energies on composing.
In 1840, after a long and acrimonious legal battle with Wieck, who opposed the marriage, Schumann married Wieck's daughter Clara. A lifelong partnership in music began, as Clara herself was an established pianist and music prodigy. Clara and Robert also maintained a close relationship with German composer Johannes Brahms.
Until 1840, Schumann wrote exclusively for the piano. Later, he composed piano and orchestral works, and many Lieder (songs for voice and piano). He composed four symphonies, one opera, and other orchestral, choral, and chamber works. His best-known works include Carnaval, Symphonic Studies, Kinderszenen, Kreisleriana, and the Fantasie in C. Schumann was known for infusing his music with characters through motifs, as well as references to works of literature. These characters bled into his editorial writing in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (New Journal for Music), a Leipzig-based publication that he co-founded.
Schumann suffered from a mental disorder that first manifested in 1833 as a severe melancholic depressive episode—which recurred several times alternating with phases of "exaltation" and increasingly also delusional ideas of being poisoned or threatened with metallic items. What is now thought to have been a combination of bipolar disorder and perhaps mercury poisoning led to "manic" and "depressive" periods in Schumann's compositional productivity. After a suicide attempt in 1854, Schumann was admitted at his own request to a mental asylum in Endenich near Bonn. Diagnosed with psychotic melancholia, he died of pneumonia two years later at the age of 46, without recovering from his mental illness.
Schumann was born in Zwickau, in the Kingdom of Saxony (today Central Germany), the fifth and last child of Johanna Christiane (née Schnabel) and August Schumann. Schumann began to compose before the age of seven, but his boyhood was spent in the cultivation of literature as much as music—undoubtedly influenced by his father, a bookseller, publisher, and novelist.At age seven, Schumann began studying general music and piano with Johann Gottfried Kuntzsch, a teacher at the Zwickau high school. The boy immediately developed a love of music, and worked on his own compositions, without the aid of Kuntzsch. Even though he often disregarded the principles of musical composition, he created works regarded as admirable for his age. The Universal Journal of Music 1850 supplement included a biographical sketch of Schumann that noted, "It has been related that Schumann, as a child, possessed rare taste and talent for portraying feelings and characteristic traits in melody,—ay, he could sketch the different dispositions of his intimate friends by certain figures and passages on the piano so exactly and comically that everyone burst into loud laughter at the similitude of the portrait."At age 14, Schumann 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 Schiller and Goethe, as well as Byron and the Greek tragedians. His most powerful and permanent literary inspiration was Jean Paul, a German writer whose influence is seen in Schumann's youthful novels Juniusabende, completed in 1826, and Selene.
Schumann's interest in music was sparked by attending a performance of Ignaz Moscheles playing at Karlsbad, and he later developed an interest in the works of Beethoven, Schubert, and Mendelssohn. His father, who had encouraged his musical aspirations, died in 1826 when Schumann was 16. Thereafter, neither his mother nor his guardian encouraged him to pursue a music career. In 1828, Schumann left high school, and after a trip during which he met the poet Heinrich Heine in Munich, he left to study law at the University of Leipzig under family pressure. But in Leipzig Schumann instead focused on improvisation, song composition, and writing novels. He also began to seriously study piano with Friedrick Wieck, a well-known piano teacher. In 1829, he continued his law studies in Heidelberg, where he became a lifelong member of Corps Saxo-Borussia Heidelberg.
During Eastertide 1830, he heard the Italian violinist, violist, guitarist, and composer 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." With her permission, by Christmas he was back in Leipzig, at age 20 taking piano lessons from his old master Friedrich Wieck, who assured him that he would be a successful concert pianist after a few years' study with him. During his studies with Wieck, some stories claim that Schumann permanently injured a finger on his right hand. Wieck claimed that Schumann damaged his finger by using a mechanical device that held back one finger while he exercised the others—which was supposed to strengthen the weakest fingers. Clara Schumann discredited the story, saying the disability was not due to a mechanical device, and Robert Schumann himself referred to it as "an affliction of the whole hand." Some argue that, as the disability appeared to have been chronic and have affected the hand, and not just a finger, it was not likely caused by a finger strengthening device.Schumann abandoned the idea of a concert career and devoted himself instead to composition. To this end he began a study of music theory under Heinrich Dorn, a German composer six years his senior and, at that time, conductor of the Leipzig Opera.
Schumann's fusion of literary ideas with musical ones—known as program music—may have first taken shape in Papillons, Op. 2 (Butterflies), a musical portrayal of events in Jean Paul's novel Flegeljahre. In a letter from Leipzig dated April 1832, Schumann 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." This inspiration is foreshadowed to some extent in his first written criticism—an 1831 essay on Frédéric Chopin's variations on a theme from Mozart's Don Giovanni, published in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung. In it, Schumann creates imaginary characters who discuss Chopin's work: Florestan (the embodiment of Schumann's passionate, voluble side) and Eusebius (his dreamy, introspective side)—the counterparts of Vult and Walt in Flegeljah.... Discover the Robert Alexander popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Robert Alexander books.