Robert Schumann


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