Composer in Focus – Robert Schumann

Schumann Sq
Name: Robert Schumann
Dates: 1810-1856
Country of Birth: Germany
Musical Era: Romantic


Never to be confused with Schubert, Robert Schumann was one of Romantic music’s most, well, romantic…  His marriage to concert pianist (and composer) Clara Wieck inspired some of his greatest works, each imbued with loving sentiment and devotion.  Before that great love, though, Schumann had some growing up to do and he did that in the town of Zwickau, Germany.  Schumann received a little formal musical education as a young boy, but his love of music was born of a very natural talent for composition, and fascination with the arts, literature and music in general. He didn’t get a great deal of encouragement from family, particularly after the passing of his father when he was a teenager.  To secure his inheritance he agreed to study Law and went to Leipzig to do so.  The call of music was too strong, though, and at the age of twenty he began piano lessons again with the father of his future wife.  The piano would figure heavily in his composing; he even had designs on being a concert pianist, but those dreams were cut short by an injury to his right hand (that some say was the result of Schumann attempting to use a finger strengthening device, of his own design, that went horribly wrong).  The young composer also fancied himself as a music critic and published his own journal – ‘The New Journal for Music’ – which he wrote under a variety of pseudonyms, different characters if you will.

Schumann encountered Clara Wieck a number of times as she was blossoming into not just a brilliant and admired concert pianist, but also a beautiful young woman.  Schumann was a number of years older and their romance was frowned upon by her father – Schumann’s former piano teacher.  They married, though, and went on to have eight children together.  Their love was seemingly the stuff of fairytale and the composer created some of the most famous song-cycles ever written, inspired by his affection for Clara.  The pair were a great force in music during this time, with concerts, essays and championing new talent – including a young composer called Johannes Brahms, whom they both admired greatly.  Brahms would also fall in love with Clara…

Schumann’s output was keen and strong right through into the late 1840s, including four symphonies, with further works (some say of a lesser quality) being published after 1850.  It was at this time that the composer began encountering hallucinations and bouts of depression and melancholia.  A suicide attempt in 1854 lead to him being admitted to an asylum, where he eventually died two years later.  It was a sad end for a man who had given so much of himself in his music, but that relatively short spell of creative genius is still admired by musicians today and beloved by audiences.

Key works… Fantasie in C, Kinderszenen, Dichterlibe, Liederkreis, Piano Concerto in A minor, Romanze Op 28 No 2

Did you know?  Schumann was also a leading music critic, who often wrote under alter-ego pseudonyms such as ‘Florestan’ and ‘Eusebius’…

Schumann in Bristol
Weds 2 Nov, 1.05pm /
Emma Stannard & Keval Shah – ‘Gedichte der Königin Maria Stuart, Op 135’ (The Lantern)

Tues 15 Nov, 1.05pm /
Bo Lyu (piano) – Works by Schumann tbc (The Lantern)

Tues 22 Nov, 1.05pm /
Tom Blomfield (oboe) – ‘Three Romances for Oboe and Piano, Op 94’ (The Lantern)