Zwickau, 1810 – Bonn, 1856

Robert Schumann

Music figured prominently among the protective gods who baptized Schumann (his mother was a music teacher), but so did Literature, his father, August, was an editor and bookseller in Zwickau.
He became a student of Friedrich Wieck and in 1840 he married Wieck’s daughter – another guardian who watched over the composer, giving him a few years of serenity in a life that was otherwise stressed by family bereavement and a certain psychological fragility. In an attempt to become a pianist and make up for the ‘time lost’ studying at the university, he subjected himself to strenuous hand exercises until he lost all sensibility in his ring finger. This episode convinced him to direct his energies to composing, for the most part for the piano. Mendelssohn asked him to come to Leipzig to the Conservatory that Mendelssohn himself had founded. Schumann remained there a year and then left to follow Clara on tour to Russia, subsequently he took up residence in Dresden and finally, in 1850, he settled in Düsseldorf.
In 1854, he tried to commit suicide in the Rhine (which he had dreamt about when he was 19) however, he was saved by a few boatmen and was interned in an institution near Bonn. During the two years he remained there, until his death in 1856, he was attended to by Clara and his friend Johannes Brahms.
Schumann is synonymous with Romanticism: all of the classic Romantic themes are present in his piano writings. He was so successful, his fame after death exceeds that during his lifetime.
Although his works included symphonic music, concertos, vocal music, Schumann’s place is alongside Chopin and Liszt, among the greats in piano. Some of his work, such as Karnaval op. 9, Kinderszenen op. 15, l’Album für die Jugend op.68 are among the greatest masterpieces in the repertory of music for piano.

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