Robert Schumann Facts

Schumann's Troubled Life

(born June 8,1810- died July 29,1856)

Robert Schumann was the fifth and youngest child of a bookseller. As a boy he liked reading the books in his father’s shop. He began to compose by seven. At school he was extremely good at music and literature. He passed his school-leaving examination with flying colours.By the time Schumann entered the University to study Law he was not only  interested in music and literature, but also in women and drinking.

However when Schumann was in his teens, his father died and his sister committed suicide. These events left a deep impact on the young musician. Young Schumann studied law at Leipzig while simultaneously continuing his music studies. One of his music teachers was Friedrich Wieck.  Wieck’s daughter  Clara showed a great talent at the piano while she was only 9 years old.Young Robert fell in love with the charming Clara.

Further tragedy however lay in store for Schumann. A mishap damaged one of his hands and this meant the end of his career as a  concert pianist. Some theories blame a device he used to strengthen his fingers, but other accounts lay the blame on mercury poisoning – a side effect of his treatment for syphilis.This injury meant the end of his career as a  concert pianist.

Clara’s parents did not want her to marry him and her father did everything he could to stop the marriage. One possible reason was that he may have known that Schumann had syphilis. In the end, after  court intervention, they were married in 1840. This happened shortly before Clara’s 21st birthday. The couple had three daughters.
Schumann suffered from maniac depression. When he was depressed he hardly wrote anything, but 1840 was a happy year for him and he wrote lots of songs as well as orchestral music. In 1841 he wrote four symphonies. In 1842, the couple went on a concert tour together and in 1844 they toured Russia and played to the Tsar. By August he had a complete nervous breakdown. It took him some time to recover.

By now he was good at writing all kinds of music. He wrote music for the famous play Faust by Goethe. He wrote one opera,Genoveva in 1849. His fame spread slowly. In 1850 he became musical director atDusseldorf.
Schumann had often thought of trying to kill himself. On 27 February 1854 he threw himself into the river Rhine.  He was taken to an asulum where he spent the last two years of his life. He died on 29 July 1856.

The popularity ofSchumann’s piano music is an indicator of his talent. Although Schumann could no longer play as a concert pianist because of his mishap, his wife Clara played his pieces and helped them to become famous. Many of his piano works are collections of short pieces, each with a title e.g. Papillons (Butterflies), Davidsbündlertänze, Carnaval. In Carnaval the two sides of Schumann’s personality are represented by Florestan and Eusebius. Schumann's manic depression (the happy and the tragic moods that he had) can be heard side by side in his music. Other piano works include Scenes from Childhood, Kreisleriana and the popular Album for the Young which has some quite easy pieces like Soldier’s March and the famous Träumerei (Dreaming). There are also longer works for piano: 3 sonatas, a Toccata and a Phantasie.

His chamber music includes string quartets and a famous piano quintet.
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