A talented pianist who failed to become a virtuoso. A talented writer who has not published a single novel. Idealist and romantic, mocker and wit. A composer who was able to draw with music and make the tonic and fifth speak in a human voice. All this is Robert Schumann, a great German composer and brilliant music critic, the pioneer of the era of romanticism in European music.
At the beginning of the century, at the beginning of summer on June 8, 1810, the fifth child was born in the family of the poet August Schumann. The boy was named Robert and a future was planned for him, leading to a well-fed and prosperous life. Apart from literature, his father was engaged in book publishing and prepared his son for the same path. Mother secretly dreamed that a lawyer would grow out of the younger Schumann.
Robert was seriously carried away by the works of Goethe and Byron, had a delightful style of presentation and a gift that allowed him to perfectly portray characters that were completely different from each other. The father even included the articles of the high school student in the encyclopedia that he published. These children’s compositions are now being published as a supplement to Robert Schumann’s collection of journalistic articles.
Yielding to his mother’s wishes, Robert studied law in Leipzig. But the music attracted the young man more and more, leaving less and less time for doing something else.
Choice is made
Probably, the fact that among the tens of thousands of inhabitants of the small Saxon town of Zwickau turned out to be organist Johann Kunsch, who became the first mentor of the six-year-old Schumann, was God’s craft.
- 1819 At the age of 9, Robert heard the play of the famous Bohemian composer and piano virtuoso Ignaz Moshales. This concert became decisive for the choice of the boy’s further path.
- 1820 At the age of 10, Robert began writing music for choir and orchestra.
- 1828 At the age of 18, a loving son fulfilled his mother’s dream and entered the Leipzig University, and a year later at the Gelderbeig University, planning to complete his legal education. But here the Wieck family appeared in Schumann’s life.
Friedrich Wieck gives piano lessons. His daughter Clara is an eight-year-old talented pianist. The income from her concerts allows her father to lead a comfortable life. Robert falls in love once and for all with this child, but transfers his passion to music.
He dreams of becoming a concert pianist, doing impossible things for this. There is evidence that Schumann designed his own copy of the (popular and very expensive) Dactylion pianist’s finger trainer. Either immense diligence during training, or the focal dystonia found in pianists, or poisoning with medications containing mercury, led to the fact that the index and middle fingers of the right hand ceased to function. It was the collapse of a pianist’s career and the beginning of a career as a composer and music critic.
- 1830 Schumann takes lessons in composition from Heinrich Dorn (author of the famous “Nibelungs” and conductor of the Leipzig Opera House).
- 1831 – 1840 Schumann wrote and became popular in Germany and abroad: “Butterflies” (1831), “Carnival” (1834), “Davidsbündlers” (1837). A trilogy expressing the composer’s vision of the development of musical art. Most of the musical compositions of this period are intended for piano performance. Love for Clara Wieck does not fade away.
- 1834 – the first issue of the “New Musical Newspaper”. Robert Schumann is the founder of this fashionable and influential music magazine. Here he gave free rein to his imagination.
Over the decades, psychiatrists concluded that Schumann developed bipolar disorder. Two personalities coexisted in his brain, who found a voice in the new newspaper under the names Eusebius and Floristan. One was romantic, the other sarcastic. This was not the end of Schumann’s hoaxes. On the pages of the magazine, the composer denounced superficiality and craftsmanship on behalf of the non-existent organization David’s Brotherhood (Davidsbündler), which included Chopin and Mendelssohn, Berlioz and Schubert, Paganini and, of course, Clara Wieck.
In the same year, 1834, the popular cycle “Carnival” was created. This piece of music is a gallery of portraits of those musicians in whom Schumann sees the development of art, i.e. all who, in his opinion, are worthy of membership in the “Davidic Brotherhood”. Here, Robert also included fictional characters from his mind, darkened by illness.
- 1834 – 1838 written symphonic etudes, sonatas, “Fantasies”; to this day, the popular piano pieces Fantastic Fragments, Scenes from Children (1938); full of romance play for piano “Kreisleriana” (1838), based on the beloved Schumann writer Hoffmann.
- 1838 All this time, Robert Schumann is at the limit of psychological capabilities. Beloved Clara is 18 years old, but her father is categorically against their marriage (marriage is the end of a concert career, which means the end of income). The failed husband leaves for Vienna. He hopes to expand the circle of readers of the magazine in the opera capital and continues to compose. In addition to the famous “Kreisleriana”, the composer wrote: “Vienna Carnival”, “Humoresque”, “Noveletta”, “Fantasy in C Major”. It was a fruitful season for the composer and a disastrous one for the editor. The imperial Austrian censorship did not recognize the bold thoughts of the newcomer Saxon. The magazine failed to publish.
- 1839 – 1843 return to Leipzig and coveted marriage with Clara Josephine Wieck. It was a happy time. The composer created almost 150 lyrical, romantic, funny songs, among which there were revised German folklore and works on the verses of Heine, Byron, Goethe, Burns. Friedrich Wieck’s fears did not materialize: Klara continued her concert activity despite the fact that she became a mother. Her husband accompanied her on trips and wrote for her. In 1843, Robert obtained a permanent teaching job at the Leizipg Conservatory, founded by his friend and admired man, Felix Mendelssohn. At the same time, Schumann began writing the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1941-1945);
- 1844 trip to Russia. Klara’s tour in St. Petersburg and Moscow. Schumann is jealous of his wife for success with the public, not yet knowing that his ideas have taken strong roots in Russian music. Schumann became the inspiration for the composers of The Mighty Handful. His works had a significant impact on Balakirev and Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky and Borodin, Rachmaninov and Rubinstein.
- 1845 Clara feeds her family and slowly slips money to her husband so that he can pay for both. Schumann is not satisfied with this state of affairs. The man is trying to find ways to generate income. The family moves to Dresden, to a large apartment. The couple compose together and take turns writing diaries. Clara performs her husband’s musical compositions. They are happy. But, Schumann’s mental disorder begins to worsen. He hears voices and loud distracting sounds, and the first hallucinations appear. The family increasingly finds the composer talking to himself.
- 1850 Robert recovers from his illness so much that he gets a job as music director at the Alte Theater in Düsseldorf. He does not want to leave his comfortable Dresden apartment, but the thought of the need to earn money is becoming prevalent.
- 1853 Successful tour in Holland. The composer tries to manage the orchestra and the choir, to conduct business correspondence, but the “voices in his head” are becoming more and more insistent, the brain is bursting with loud chords, which causes unbearable pain. The theater contract is not renewed.
- 1854 In February, Robert Schumann, fleeing hallucinations, throws himself into the Rhine. He is rescued, dragged out of the icy water and sent to a psychiatric hospital near Bonn. Clara was pregnant at that moment, and the doctor advises her not to visit her husband.
- 1856 the composer dies in a hospital, his wife and older children occasionally visit him before his death.
Schumann almost did not write in the hospital. He left behind an unfinished piece for cello. After a little editing by Klara, the concert began to be performed. For decades, musicians have complained about the complexity of the score. Already in the twentieth century, Shostakovich made an arrangement that made the task easier for the performers. At the end of the last century, archival evidence was discovered that the cello concerto was, in fact, written for violins.
The hard way to happiness
In order to find family happiness, the spouses had to sacrifice a lot and give up a lot. Clara Josephine Wieck broke up with her father. Their breakup reached such an aggravation that for several years she was suing for permission to marry Robert Schumann.
The happiest time was the short time spent in Dresden. Schumann had eight children: four girls and four boys. The eldest of the sons died at the age of one. The youngest and last was born during an exacerbation of the composer’s mental disorder. He was named Felix, after Mendelssohn. His wife always supported Schumann and throughout her long life promoted his work. Clara gave her last concert of her husband’s piano works at the age of 74.
The second son, Ludwig, took over his father’s propensity for illness and also died at the age of 51 in a psychiatric hospital. Daughters and sons, raised by bonns and tutors, were not close to their parents. Three children died at a young age: Julia (27), Ferdinand (42), Felix (25). Clara and her eldest daughter Maria, who returned to her mother and looked after her in the last years of her life, raised the children of the youngest Felix and the third daughter, Julia.
The legacy of Robert Schumann
It is no exaggeration to call Robert Schumann a revolutionary in the world of Old World music. He, like many talented people, was ahead of his time and was not understood by his contemporaries.
The greatest recognition for a composer is recognition of his music. Now, in the XNUMXst century, at concerts in music schools, vocalists perform “Sovenka” and “Miller” from “Children’s Scenes”. “Dreams” from the same cycle can be heard at commemorative concerts. Overtures and symphonic works gather full halls of listeners.
Schumann’s literary diaries and journalistic works were published. A whole galaxy of geniuses grew up, who were inspired by the works of the composer. This short life was bright, happy and full of tragedies, and left its mark on world culture.