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Schumann, Robert


Romanticist composer of vocal and instrumental music; b. Zwickau (Saxony), Germany, June 8, 1810 (christened Robert Alexander); d. Endenich (near Bonn), July 29, 1856. The fifth child of a bookseller and publisher, he early displayed both musical and literary talents. Apart from the musical tuition received at school, he had no guidance in composition. In 182829 he studied pianoforte with Friedrich Wieck, but an attempt to strengthen his fingers by a mechanical device so disabled one finger that a virtuoso career became impossible. From age 18 on he composed prolifically and was active also as a musical journalist, founding in 1834 the Neue Leipziger Zeitschrift für Musik to promote new ideas and composers. In 1840 he married Clara Wieck, one of the leading pianists of the day. Throughout his life he suffered from mental disturbances (possibly similar to dementia praecox) that culminated in complete insanity two years before his death.

In common with that of most German romanticist composers, his religion was sincere, but doctrinally vague and tending toward pantheism. He wrote little religious music in the strict sense, though many of his songs and shorter choral pieces are imbued with religious feeling. The so-called oratorio Das Paradies und die Peri (Op. 50; 184143) is based on a tale from Hindu mythology. A Missa Sacra (Op. 147) and Requiem (Op. 148) for chorus and orchestra (1852) have unenterprising texture: the choral writing is largely homophonic in four-square phrasing and repeated rhythms that at times become monotonous. Like most 19th-century Masses they have little or no relevance to the liturgy; if they are to be revived, their place is in the concert hall. His lasting fame rests on his secular works, in which shapeliness of form combines with a personal, expressive lyricism.

Bibliography: r. schumann, Gesammelte Schriften über Musik und Musiker, 4 v. (Leipzig 1854), tr. f. r. ritter, 2 v. (8th ed. London 1880), selections ed. by k. wolff, tr. p. rosenfeld (New York 1946); Jugendbriefe (Leipzig 1885), tr. m. herbert (London 1888); The Letters of Robert Schumann. ed. k. storck, tr. h. bryant (London 1907). e. schumann, The Schumanns and Johannes Brahms, tr. m. busch (New York 1927). g. abraham, ed., Schumann: A Symposium (New York 1952); Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. e. blom 9 v. (5th ed. London 1954) 7:603640. m. beaufils, Schumann (Paris 1932). j. chissell, Schumann (The Master Musicians, NS; London 1948). r. h. schauffler, Florestan: The Life and Work of Robert Schumann (New York 1945). e. a. lippman, Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, ed. f. blume (Kassel-Basel 1949) 12:272325. Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, ed. n. slonimsky (5th, rev. ed. New York 1958) 147478. j. bellman, "Aus alten Märchen: The Chivalric Style of Schumann and Brahms," The Journal of Musicology 13 (1995) 11735. d. ehrhardt, "Les Études symphoniques de Robert Schumann: projet d'intégration des variations posthumes," Revue de Musicologie 78 (1992) 289306. j. w. finson, "Schumann's Mature Style and the Album of Songs for the Young," The Journal of Musicology 8 (1990) 22750. c. goldberg, "Going into the Woods: Space, Time, and Movement in Schumann's Waldszenen op. 82," International Journal of Musicology 3 (1994) 15174. r. hallmark, "The Rückert Lieder of Robert and Clara Schumann," 19th Century Music 14 (1990) 330. k. kÜster, "Schumanns neuer Zugang zum Kunstlied: Das Liederjahr 1840 in kompositorischer Hinsicht," Die Musikforschung 51 (1998) 114. s. meyer, "The Trope of the Double in Schumann's Genoveva, " The Opera Journal 27/1 (1994) 422. g. schnitzler, "Heine und Schumann: Im wunderschönen Monat Mai, " International Journal of Musicology 7 (1998) 167184. m. stocco, "Variation der Variation der Variation; Einheit als Chaos: Analytische Beobachtungen über die Papillons op. 2 von Robert Schumann," Musiktheorie 11 (1996) 13958.

[a. milner]

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