Robert Schumann Mental Illness

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(b. Zwickau in Saxony, June 8, 1810; died July 29, 1856) Schumann was a famous German composer. He lived during the Romantic period. Schumann had a life long history of medical problems. These medical problems influenced his life in a great many ways. Schumann was a good student in school. He went to Leipzig to study Law as his family wanted him to be a lawyer. However he hardly ever went to any lectures. In college, he was not only interested in music and literature, but also in women and drinking. As a young man he was diagonised with syphilis. The mercury based drugs that he was prescribed as treatment eventually damaged his hand and put paid to his hopes of making a career as a concert pianist.

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Schumann published a music magazine and wrote a lot of articles about music that had just been composed. Some of this music is hard to play, but other pieces are quite easy.

 Many children learn to play some of the pieces in his Album for the Young. His songs (Lieder) are among the best ever written.He also wrote larger works like symphonies and concertos and chamber music. Sometimes he felt very happy but at other times he was very depressed. These changes of mood can be heard in a lot of his music. 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) are 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). Schumann suffered from manic 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,  Schumann and his wife Clara went on a concert tour together, but Schumann found it difficult because Clara was more famous than he was. He returned alone to Leipzig to work at his publishing. His depression led to a drinking binge. He was happy again when Clara returned, and composed some chamber music. In 1844 they toured Russia and played to the Tsar. By August 1844 he had a complete nervous breakdown and could not bear to listen to his own music. It took him some time to recover. Schumann had often thought of trying to kill himself. In February 1854 he threw himself into the river Rhine. He was rescued and admittted to an asylum where he spent the last two years of his life. He died on 29 July 1856. Schumann’s mental illness made life tough for his wife Clara. When Schumann was admitted to an asylum at Endenich, their close family friend Brahms was allowed to visit him but Clara was not. She was able to support Robert in his lunatic asylum and their seven children growing up in three separate towns. Its said that Schumann children inherited his mental illness – among other diseases they suffered from : schizophrenia.