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Essay/Term paper: Robert schumann

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Biography

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Robert Alexander Schumann was born in the small riverside town of

Zwickau, Saxony, in 1810.The youngest of five children, Robert Schumann

was brought up in comfortable, middle-class respectability. As a child, he

apparently exhibited no remarkable abilities.

At the age of six, Robert was sent to the local preparatory school, run

by Archdeacon Dohner. He had in fact already begun his education, with the

young tutor who gave lessons in exchange for board and lodging at the

Schumann home.

At the age of seven Robert received his first piano lessons, from

Johann Gottfried Kuntzsch, organist at St. Mary's Church, and schoolmaster

at the Zwickau Lyceum. Kuntzsch was a kindly, conservative musician of

limited abilities; his knowledge stemmed from leisure-time study.

Nevertheless, Robert was soon improvising, and even composing a set of

dances for the piano.

Robert's musical talent was recognized by his father. He bought an

expensive Streicher grand piano for his son, and soon four-handed

arrangements of the classics were heard in the Schumann home. With a

friend named Friedrich Piltzing, another pupil of Kuntzch's, Robert started to

explore Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.

As a child, Schumann took part in several concerts at the Zwickau

Lyceum. He once played Moscheles' Alexander March variations, which

demanded considerable dexterity.

At the public Lyceum Robert was active as both pianist and public

speaker. When he was fourteen, Kuntzsch decided that his pupil had

progressed beyond the point where he could give further help, and declined to

teach him anymore.

Shortly before leaving the Lyceum, Schumann collaborated with his

brother Karl in preparing a new edition of Forcellini's Latin dictionary,

Lexicon Totius Latinatinis.

Although now very busy as a composer, Robert yearned for affection.

He soon fell for seventeen-year-old Ernestine von Fricken, who came to

Leipzig in April 1834 to live in at the Wiecks', and to study with Clara's

father. She had grown up in the little town of Asch with her father, Baron

von Fricken, and was the illegitimate daughter of Countess Zedtwitz.

At the beginning of September 1835 Robert and Ernestine were

secretly engaged. Within days, Baron von Fricken heard that something was

afoot, arrived in Leipzig, and took Ernestine back to Asch. After secret

discussions, the engagement was broken off by mutual agreement. Possibly

Robert had been kept in the dark about Ernestine's origins.

In any event, the affair had a catalytic effect on Robert's music. He had the

idea of writing a series of piano pieces based on the letters ASCH; these he

later turned into Carnival. He also composed some piano variations on a

theme provided by Baron von Fricken.

But Robert's friend Schunke had fallen seriously ill. Unable to bear

the sight, Robert went back to Zwickau again, only returning to Leipzig in

December to negotiate a change of publisher for the Zeitschrift. From the

beginning of 1835 the journal was published by the Leipzig firm of JA Barth.

Late in 1835 Mendelsson arrived in Leipzig to take over as music

director of the Gewandhaus. Still only twenty-six, Mendelsson was the

director of the age, and Schumann felt an immediate attraction when they met

at Wieck's house. Following the newcomer's debut in Leipzig, Schumann

wrote praising him in the "Letters of an Enthusiast" column of his Zeitzcrift.

Schumann did however venture to criticise Mendelssohn's use of the baton;

he believed that an orchestra should function as a "republic" and that ridgity

should be avoided. At about this time, too, Robert met both Chopin and

Ignaz Moscheles at the Wieck's. Throughout the autumn of 1835 Schumann

was a regular visitor at the Wieck's home, seeing much of Clara, who was

now sixteen. He had been following her career as a virtuoso closely since she

was nine.when he was depressed, she cheered him up. Their talent affection

was now becoming increasingly evident. Robert had

now finished his first piano sonata, dedicated "The evening Clara set out on

an important concert tour, Robert came to wish her well, and kissed her

good-bye. They saw each other again in Zwickau, and kissed again. In the

new year Robert traveled to Dresden, where he knew Clara was spending a

holiday without her father, and made his declaration of love.

Schumann seems to have thought Clara's father would welcome him

as his son-in-law. He was wrong. Hearing that Robert and Clara had been

meeting behind his back, Wieck was enraged, and wrote to Robert insisting

that all relations be

severed. At the same time he distracted Clara's attention by flaunting her a

new singing teacher, Karl Banck.

Clara, only just sixteen, was regarded by her father as a mere child.

Wieck had nurtured her talents, and now saw her on the threshold of an

outstanding career. He was not going to stand by and watch her marry

Schumann, who he knew, to his own irritation, had neglected his training and

squandered his resources.

Naturally Robert was desperate. Extravagant spending sprees led to

pleas to his brothers for money. He started drinking heavily, and his generally

impolite habits led to a noisy argument with his landlady. Finally he wrote to


To understand Wieck's attitude, we need to examine his feelings about

Clara. She represented his special creation, his life's work. He had labored

with her for long years at the keyboard. She had finally emerged as his best

pupil, the star exemplar of his techniques. At the same time she now

represented a valuable commercial asset. She simultaneously fed Wieck's

wallet and his ego.

In May 1837, after another long tour, Clara arrived back in Leipzig.

Not long afterwards banck, like Schumann before him, was rejected by

Wieck as a suitor for Clara. At this time Schumann's disappointment seems to

have turned to malice. He declared himself ready to avenge himself on Clara.

But this was only a temporary mood; in a letter to her in August, with words

"cold and serious, yet so beautiful", Robert protested she remained "the

dearest in the world". His feelings were echoed by his beloved. On August 14

they became sacredly engaged.

On Clara's eighteenth birth day, Robert Wrote to Wieck asking for his

consent to their marriage. He argued that his prospects were greatly

improved, and his stability enchanced; "You owe it to my position, my talent

and my character".

The wedding finally took place on 12 September, the day before

Clara's twenty-first birthday. After that she would in any case free of her

father's will. Possibly Robert chose the day as a final signal of defiance to his

new father-in-law.

Very later in their marriage Robert started to have a mental illness. He

heard a solitary note beating in Robert's ears, giving him no peace. On 26

February 1854 Robert begged Clara to have him committed to an asylum, but

was finally persuaded by the doctor to go to bed.

Later Clara discovered that Robert had thrown himself into the River

Rhine, and fisherman had rescued him.

On March 4 Robert was taken to Dr. Richarz's private asylum at

Endenich, near Bonn. At intervals his mind cleared a little.

On June 8 1856, Robert's birthday, Brahams found him thin,

oblivious of every thing outside, picking names out of an atlas and putting

them into alphabetical order. On Thursday 29 July Robert was finally

released from his suffering. At four in the afternoon he fell asleep. He passed

away without anyone noticing. Clara did not see him until half an hour later.

Schumann was buried at seven o'clock on the morning of 31 July

1856 in Bonn. Brahms and Joachin walked in front of the coffin which was

carried by some of the Dusseldorf choir. Clara asked that a few friends be


That was the life and death of Robert Schumann.


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