Robert Schumann

(1810—1856) German composer

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(b Zwickau, 1810; d Endenich, 1856).

Ger. composer, pianist, cond., and critic. Studied law at Leipzig and Heidelberg Univs., but main interests were mus. and Romantic literature, e.g. Jean‐Paul Richter. In 1828 met Clara Wieck, to whose father Friedrich he went for pf. lessons in 1829, lodging with him and beginning to compose. In 1832 permanently injured hand by device he had invented to keep 4th finger immobile while practising. Was already contributing mus. criticism to Ger. papers and in 1831 called attention to Chopin's genius. Depressed by mus. situation in Ger., founded ‘David Club’ in 1834 to fight artistic philistines, and periodical Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, which he ed. for 10 years. In writings and comps., gave himself dual personality: Florestan for his impetuous self and Eusebius for his contemplative side. In 1838 visited Vienna and discovered MS of Schubert's ‘Great’ C major sym., which he sent to Mendelssohn. Married Clara Wieck 1840 after long opposition from her father, this being followed by outpouring of songs and song‐cycles. In 1841 concentrated on syms., in 1842 on chamber mus., and in 1843 choral works. Taught comp. at Leipzig Cons. Toured Russia with Clara, 1844. On return had severe attack of depression. Moved to Dresden in search of quiet, living there until 1850. In 1846 Clara gave f.p. of his pf. conc. and Mendelssohn cond. f.p. of 2nd Sym. In 1850 moved to Düsseldorf in hope of earning more by conducting, but was not a success. Met 20‐year‐old Brahms in 1853, acclaiming him in article ‘New Paths’. The next year his mental health failed and he threw himself into Rhine, but was saved and taken to private asylum where he lived another 2 years.

Schumann was one of the greatest composers for pf., enriching its literature with a series of poetic works in which classical structure and Romantic expression are combined. His vocal and chamber mus. is of comparable quality, with the freshness, vitality, and lyricism which also characterize the orch. works. His orchestration is sometimes criticized for its thickness and lack of fluency, and various attempts have been made to ‘improve’ the scoring, e.g. by Mahler, but the present‐day tendency is to prefer the spontaneity of Schumann's own. His songs, particularly his song‐cycles, are among the glories of Lieder. His works contain many musical quotations and allusions and a number of his themes have been shown to be musical cryptograms. Prin. comps.:



, Op.81 (1847–9).

incidental music:


, Op.115 (Byron) (1848–9).


Frühling Rhenish

syms.: No.1 in B♭ (, Spring), Op.38 (1841), No.2 in C, Op.61 (1845–6), No.3 in E♭ (), Op.97 (1850), No.4 in D minor (begun 1841, 2nd in order of comp., rev. 1851), Op.120;

Overture, Scherzo, and Finale

, Op.52 (1841, rev. 1845);

Overture to Shakespeare's Julius Caesar

, Op.128 (1851);

Overture on Goethe's Hermann and Dorothea

, Op.136 (1851).

concertos, etc.:


pf. conc. in A minor, Op.54 (1st movt. written as 1841, rest added 1845);


, 4 hn., in F, Op.86 (1849);


Subjects: Music.

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