Robert Schumann Facts
Robert Schumann Biography
Robert Schumann is a widely known composer and pianist. He was born in Zwickau, Saxony in 1810. It is universally hailed that he showed the talent to both written composition and the piano. However, Schumann began his musical career and his training when he was six. The most prominent fact is that Schumann wrote his first composition when he was twelve years old. While being in school he proved to be a gifted musician, significantly influenced by Austrian composer Franz Schubert. Robert Schumann had also shown his talent in literary arts, being influenced by Jean Paul Richter most of all. However, the artist could not figure out which way to go in his life, and it was Schumann’s mother, who endeavored him to be placed in the law school. In Leipzig he met and studied under the guidance of Friedrich Wieck, who was a prominent piano teacher. It was Wieck, who initially recognized Schumann’s talent. Nevertheless, Robert Schumann had to leave Leipzig, as he had to follow the law professor.
The latter was sympathetic to the talented musician, and encouraged Schumann to practice and to become a virtuoso pianist, as he noticed Robert’s disdain for the law studies. At that time Schumann had already composed a number of waltzes. It actually helped to persuade his mother, and Robert returned to Leipzig to practice in rigorous regime and become a concert pianist (Perrey 58). As a matter of fact, Robert met his wife Clara only thanks to his teacher in Leipzig. Clara Wieck was a daughter of Robert’s teacher. She was nine years younger than Robert and the girl was a gifted pianist herself. Her trainings began when she was five and at the age of nine she had started touring. Her election to the honored Music Society of Vienna was widely hailed. Clara also tried to compose, however her composing skills were affected by the perfect proficiency of a pianist. Robert Schumann became interested in Clara when she was sixteen. However, their relationships began only when the girl turned eighteen, because her father forbade the daughter to see the composer for more than sixteen months. Her father had even denied Robert Schumann when the man asked Clara’s hand in marriage. However, Clara disobeyed and married her beloved despite the absence of her father’s permission and the court’s satisfaction. Thenceforth, Robert Schumann produced over one hundred Lieder, most of which were exclusively composed to be played by his wife. It was Clara who encouraged Robert to expand his musical style. She led Robert towards orchestral music and various chamber works. Actually, Clara created a number of opuses and piano songs but later she understood that despite her talent, there had been no women to compose before, and she should not be the one who expects to be a woman-composer. Thus, it was the reason why she had become the main interpreter of Robert’s music (Stern). They made a perfect couple, as he composed and she played.
Actually, the family life influenced both artists, opening for them new perspectives. As Robert and Clara had seven children, they discovered a new dimension for creativity. They could compose and play for children and about both children and the childhood. However, Clara’s father was right about Schumann’s lack in discipline and stability. The artist was often depressed, and it happened more and more with each passing year. He also suffered from the mental breakdown, however he was able to fight it and recover. Later Schumann became a musical director in Dusseldorf. Nevertheless, the artist had been forced to resign as he constantly showed his tempers and depression. He even tried to commit a suicide, but was rescued by a fisherman. Consequently he asked to be taken to the asylum, where he died in 1856 (Perrey 65). After her husband’s death, Clara had to travel with the concert piano tour just to support her children. At the same time she edited the works by Robert Schumann and tried to preserve them as much as possible. The wife of the widely hailed musical genius died forty years later than her husband (Stern).
Robert Schumann’s works are highly autobiographical. Most of them have descriptive titles and texts. His works were the source where he could express his lyrical nature, and that is the reason why his music is very emotional. Robert Schumann always tried to think about the music in literary, autobiographical and emotional terms. His chromaticism, harmonies, rhythmic and tonal ambiguity definitely left the audience of that period puzzled. Generally, Schumann’s works were not the example of classical forms, and they were absolutely romantic. Moreover, his music was very much related to poetry, paintings and even various personal allusions and moods. Carnaval is his work created for piano solo (Zhang), which consists of twenty-one short pieces. They have highly descriptive titles, which represent the masked revels. The work gives the musical expression to Robert Schumann himself, to his various friends and colleagues and even characters from the improvised Italian comedy. The work is done in such a way that the music begins from the main idea, then it changes and returns to the main idea again, which now looks a bit different. At the same time the tempo of the work is very light ad fast. Only when the melody changes, as the musician proceeds to the second part, it becomes much slower. Generally speaking, Robert Schumann was one of the great pioneers of the rhythm and meter in his times. These elements were regarded to be significant expressive elements (Perrey 72). It is widely known that Carnaval is prominent thanks to its brilliant chordal passages and the use of rhythmical displacement. As a matter of fact this can be compared to the distortion of poetic rhythm. Poetic rhythm is a complex issue itself, that is why the relations between the musical (especially vocal) rhythm and poetic one, are even more complicated. Poetic rhythm is a constant rhythm, which has an accentual and durational component, and it underlines the recitation of a poem (Krebs 268). When the poetry is set on music, it is understandable that the main rhythm might be subjected to even more drastic deformations. This fact explains that even when the song is naturalized, it will be called topological distortions of the utterance because of the rhythmical and harmonic stress of the music. This might include various stretching, pulling and twisting of different forms of the speech. However, these deformations are not the issue of the composer’s whims. As a matter of fact, it should have been used by the composer because of expressive reasons. Generally speaking, such distortions of poetic rhythm are very common in Schumann’s works (269).
The work Carnaval is very complicated and it is the most specific piano work. The cryptogram that Schumann uses for opening every section of the work is of a particular interest. He uses the musical letters to code his own name. The given fact shows the fascination of the artist with various enigmas and musical quotations. It was the work in which he conceived the story together with the musical representation. His work might be named very melodic and relatively simple, however, rhythmical distortions make it complex in the harmonic structures. Despite the work had been created to be a piano solo, it was rarely performed in public during Schumann’s lifetime. Nevertheless, Franz List performed some sections of Carnaval in Leipzig in 1840. Another work by Robert Schumann, which might be of a particular interest, is Dichterliebe. It is translated as ‘The poet’s love’, which is known to be the best song cycle. As a matter of fact, the texts for these songs were the sixteen verses of Heinrich Heine. The influence of these poems is significant, as the verses are actually reflecting the hypersensitive nature of the artists. It may be noticed in the small chromaticism and suspensions. Robert Schumann also uses rhythmical distortions, as he actually adapts some words of poems by Heine for the needs of his songs. It generally means that he uses repetitions, and sometimes even rewords the line for the benefit of the desired cadence. The artist was definitely inspired by the poet, however, even the poems appeared to become integral artistic works of Robert Schumann. The verses selected for the processing encompassed absolutely different topics. Robert Schumann had chosen the lyrics in such a way for them to be one, two or three short stanza. It is the reason why the vocabulary and the diction are plain. It also explains why most of the songs are created and played in a very simple meter and rhythm schemes, which are considered to resemble the folk songs. The only exception might be the song “Ich grolle nicht”. The collection might be separated into three different parts. The first four songs might be encompassed under the title “Love”, songs 5-11 are dedicated to the topic “Crisis” and the last four express the problem of “Reconciliation”. All of the critics believe that most of the wonderful piano postludes appear in the Dichterliebe. For instance, Schumann created the mood of wedding dance there and on the other hand he showed the sense of violence. The wedding scene is created in the ninth song, and afterwards it turns into an extended postlude. We can also find the rising chromatic line and crescendo at the end of the tenth song. The twelfth one will have the pensive ending and it will echo in the prominent augmented sixth harmony. On the whole, the songs are very harmonically organized and even the changes of moods are done for the balance (Hallmark). However, it is really challenging to sing any of Schumann’s compositions, as they were created to use both the highest heights and the lowest depth of a tenor voice. In case if a singer uses too low voice, a lot of the songs would not be audible at all. One of the important things to be preserved is the relationship between various keys of different songs. Hence, the songs should be taken down at an equal distance (Hallmark). From the very beginning the work was dedicated to Wilhelmine Devrient. It is actually the primary reason why the performance had to be done in the female voice. Harry Plunket Greene did the first full recital of the work in London.
Robert Schumann was a great German composer, who had a significant impact on the burgeoning Romantic Movement. He created new forms and filled them with personal subjectivity and emotiveness, which definitely transformed the classical tradition. He is the one who stands between the conservatives and the ultra progressives of the nineteenth century. He applied new unusual devices, such as distortion of the poetic rhythm, various hypermetric irregularities and understated metrical dissonances. However, some of the works are maybe less interesting from the rhythmic standpoint, but they are full of harmony, emotions, and remarkably expressive effects.