Robert Schumann: Dark Struggles, Poetic Sounds

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For many, Robert Schumann is the ultimate romantic composer. On this edition of The Romantic piano, we once again focus on Schumann's piano music as well as the intertwining of his personal struggles into his unique style.

Robert Schumann had given his heart to the solo piano for a solid decade. In the first year of his marriage to Clara Wieck, he combined his beloved piano with the art of poetry. In that first year, Schumann composed 140 pieces. The greatest creative outburst of song since Schubert himself.

Schumann was a complicated and rather damaged person. As soon as he finished a composition, he spiraled into a deep depression and drank excessively. The couple only had one piano, and Clara bowed to Robert's superior creative gift. She set aside her piano playing completely, hoping to not regress. During their years together, Schumann did not want Clara concertizing; he was very insecure that she was a much greater pianist then he. 

By age 40, he would go weeks without speaking a word. At age 44, his catatonia heightened and the composer threw himself into the icy waters of the Rhine River. Fishermen pulled him out, but he fought them desperately. The two weeks preceding this, he had been in a psychotic state. Although he continued to compose as his musical equipments were still intact, Schumann begged Clara to have him sent to a mental hospital.

Soon after this attempt, he was taken to a treatment center outside of Bonn. He became lost in insanity, requiring a straitjacket when taken for walks. He was considered dangerous.

In the two and a half years he lived at the asylum, Clara was never allowed to visit him. Towards the end of his life, he was dying from self starvation. While on his deathbed, doctors relented and asked Clara to pay a visit to Schumann. She arrived mere hours after he passed. Thankful that he was at last set from his torturous life, she made it her mission to support their family by performing his beloved music.

Playlist:

 

Sonata for Piano no 2 in G minor, Op. 22 / Martha Argerich

Carnaval, Op. 9: Chopin / Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli

Carnaval, Op. 9: Chiarina / Michael Ponti

Carnaval, Op. 9: Chiarina / Solomon

Bunte Blätter for Piano, Op. 99: 3 Stucklein: No. 1: Nicht schnell, mit Innigkeit / Maria Grinberg

Faschingsschwank aus Wien, Op. 26: Finale / Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli

Kinderszenen, Op. 15: no 7, Träumerei / Wilhelm Kempff

Kreisleriana, Op. 16 / Klára Würtz

Phantasiestücke for Piano, Op. 12: Aufschwung / Artur Rubinstein

Phantasiestücke for Piano, Op. 12: In Der Nacht / Adrian Aeschbacher

Phantasiestücke (3) for Piano, Op. 111 / Vladimir Horowitz

Toccata for Piano in C major, Op. 7 / Georges Cziffra

Phantasie for Piano in C major, Op. 17 / Sviatoslav Richter