Robert Schumann

Robert Schumann

Robert Schumann can arguably be called one of the earliest composers advertising classical music under the Romanticism label. Born on 8 June 1810 in Zwickau, Germany, Schumann embraced a very unique and somewhat unconventional approach to playing piano. His interests mostly revolved around composing exquisite piano pieces, while occasionally attempting other orchestral and chamber arrangements in the latter half of his life. In a career that spanned just over two decades, his love and admiration of the oneness demonstrated between poetry and music led him to construct some outstanding compositions. These ranged from mostly piano arrangements, orchestral melodies, and vocal compositions to some interesting solo works.

Schumann’s first known composition was a piano piece that came out in 1830. Around this time, his childhood obsession with merging literary texts and musical progressions were embraced in two works, namely Variations On The Name Abegg (1830) and Papillons (1829–1831). After practically assessing his tastes in classical music, Schumann attempted another important piano arrangement, called Carnaval (1834), this time building on his earlier concepts in Papillons and using more compositional resources. It seemed like his conceptions of musical theory and literary texts kept developing and becoming more transformed in to advanced fusions, an effort he demonstrated in a 1937 eight-piece piano arrangement, called Fantasiestucke or Fantasy Pieces. A remarkable feature of this incredible composition was the use of the concept concerning dual personalities, played by Schumann himself. Other works from the same year include Symphonic Studies and Davidsbundlertanze, or Dances of the League of David. These were deep-rooted works, built on the same foundation of literature-music unity Schumann had ensconced in his earlier works. Up until 1840, he worked on other piano pieces such as Kinderszenen (1838), Kreisleriana (1838) and Faschingsschwank Aus Wien (1839), or Carnival Prank from Vienna, having a humorous reference to Napoleon’s invasion of Vienna in the latter.

Although Robert Schumann had been focused on primarily making piano pieces, he shifted interests in 1840, a year in which he wrote close to 168 songs. Some of his most impressionable works were Liederkreis, Frauenliebe und -leben, Dichterliebe and Die beiden Grenadiere, the latter demonstrating his ballad writing skills. He also took to composing symphonies around the same time, with the likes of No. 1 in B flat (1841) and No. 4 in D minor (1841) receiving indelible receptions. After impressing critics with a Mozart-class Piano Concerto in A Minor in 1845, he attempted an ill-received opera known as Genoveva (1848), one that lacked dramatic quality and musical synchronization. The last few compositions included a violin concerto, a few piano pieces and some vocal arrangements, but musical contributions to a poem titled Manfred in 1852 was arguably the most recognizable works in his last few years.

Schumann’s idealist vision of the beauty within music and poetry made him an outcast within the social scene, yet still remained a potent theme in most of his compositions that managed to gain wide audiences. His passion for lyrics and the true genius visible in the piano melodies conquered the hearts of many, and are still regularly heard in the classical realms of musical existence. Schumann remarkably put the said moments in his life in to beautifully-orchestrated pieces of sheer musical exquisiteness. After battling mental disorders for the better part of his life, Robert Schumann passed away in a mental asylum on July 29, 1856 in Endenich, Germany.

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