Schumann is the quintessential Romantic composer. His music seems to invite us into to a world of dreams, fantasy and imaginary characters, representing the multiple sides of his own personality, such as the extroverted, stormy Florestan and the elegiac, contemplative Eusebius. Despite being a concerned Classicist with great reverence for the tradition of Bach, Beethoven and Schubert, in much of his own piano music he seems to have composed almost without rules.
Träumerei (from Kinderszenen), Op. 15 No. 7
The title translates as “Reverie” or “Daydream”; it would be hard to find a better word to describe the innocent, gentle, soothing character and the calm repetitiveness of this music.
Carnaval Op. 9
Carnaval represents an elaborate and imaginative masked ball during carnival season. Schumann also put some musical puzzles into the score – "deciphering my masked ball will be a real game for you."
Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54
In one of the most widely performed concertos of the Romantic era, Schumann skips straight to the soloist’s entrance, an idea that was to be taken up by several later composers, such as Grieg and Rachmaninoff.
Robert Schumann (1810-1856) was a central figure of the Romantic era; his life, ideas and works illustrate the idea of Romanticism better than those of almost any other composer, writer or artist. As a young man he enrolled at the University of Leipzig to study law, but evidently devoted much more time to drinking, socialising, pursuing philosophical discussions and playing music. He studied piano with a respected teacher, Friedrich Wieck, whose highly talented daughter Clara was eventually to fall in love with Robert – to her father´s deep dismay. Schumann allegedly led a life of dissipation which also aggravated his manic-depressive tendencies. His compulsive use of a finger-strengthening device led to a paralysis of the right hand, making his intended pianist career impossible.
Schumann turned to composing and writing about music. He was one of the founders of the influential Neue Zeitschrift für Musik and though this medium both put words to and greatly influenced the trends in music - one of the most famous early examples was his article in praise of Chopin. In both writings and compositions, Robert gave himself a dual personality: "Florestan" for his impetuous self and "Eusebius" for his contemplative side.
Especially in his early composing career, Schumann produced a flood of short, poetic piano pieces, often inspired by his love for Clara Wieck. After years of opposition from her father, the couple finally gained the legal right to marry in 1840. This event started a period of intense creativity in all sorts of genres. First came an outpouring of songs and song-cycles; then, in 1841, Schumann concentrated on symphonies, in 1842 on chamber music, and in 1843 on choral works. After this he had a severe attack of depression and moved to Dresden in search of quiet. Seven years later he became town music director in Düsseldorf . He met with the 20-year-old Brahms in 1853, acclaiming him in an article titled "New Paths". The next year his mental health failed and he threw himself into Rhine but was rescued. After this incident he agreed to enter an asylum, where his condition gradually deteriorated until his death three years later.
Quotes by Schumann
"To send light into the depths of the human heart -- this is the artist's calling!"
"Hats off, gentlemen, a genius!" (about Chopin)
"My indifference to money and my spendthrift ways are disgraceful. You have no idea how reckless I am; how often I practically throw money out of the window. I am always making good resolutions, but the next minute I forget and give the waiter eightpence."
Quotes about Schumann
"Schumann is the most representative musical figure of central European Romanticism as much because of his limitations as because of his genius: in his finest works, indeed, he exploited these limitations in such a way that they gave a force to his genius that no other contemporary could attain." (Charles Rosen)
"To him, above all, belongs my heart, I love him like an honoured friend, to him I owe my most beautiful hours - I lament deeply for him, too, for the shadows of sadness - the sorrow we feel in his songs - fell ever more thickly upon him…What do we know of his inner being, what can we know, there, where reason ceases and madness begins?" (Edwin Fischer)