Robert Schumann

Robert Schumann. Illustration from “Famous Composers and their Works” (1906)

Robert Schumann

The life of Robert Schumann (1810-1856), who epitomized Romanticism in music, was filled with difficulties, hardships and challenges. Schumann was born on 8 June 1810 in the small town of Zwickau. In his youth, Schumann was interested in literature and music in equal measure. It was not until 1828 that he first found a competent piano teacher in Friedrich Wieck in Leipzig, where he had actually come to study law. However, Schumann soon had to abandon all hope of becoming a virtuoso, as sporadic symptoms of paralysis in his right hand could not be effectively treated. Schumann now pursued other avenues. In 1834, he founded the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (New Journal of Music), which is still in existence today, and concentrated on his creative talent. By 1839, he had written numerous important piano works. At the same time, he became involved in a complicated love affair with the daughter of Friedrich Wieck, Clara, who went on to become a virtuoso of European standing. After many ups and downs, the couple ultimately married in 1840, despite a legal dispute due to Wieck's objections.

Married life proved difficult. In addition to the constant financial worries that plagued the couple, Schumann suffered from being overshadowed by his far more famous wife. He did, however, enjoy success as a composer and was appointed municipal music director in Düsseldorf in 1850. His initial enthusiasm soon gave way to profound disappointment, for Schumann suffered from strong inhibitions in his interpersonal interactions and was unable to command any authority. The increasingly unbearable situation took its toll on Schumann's psyche, which was already strained. On 27 February 1854, Schumann attempted suicide and was taken to a mental hospital at his own request, where he died two years later in a state of mental derangement.

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