2010 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Robert Schumann, one of the most beloved composers and an influential music critic of the Romantic Movement.
According to cellist Steven Isserlis, writing in Gramophone, Schumann was a complicated musical genius who embodied the passion and imaginative spirit of his age, yet he remains one of the most misunderstood and under-valued of all the great composers.
Now thought to be bi-polar, Schumann was plagued with debilitative bouts of depression. Received wisdom has been that his depression had an unhealthy effect on his compositions, but significantly he actually tended not to compose while unwell, therefore his works cannot be described as a product of madness.
Tragically he did spent the last two years of his life in a mental asylum at his own request after an attempted suicide.
Isserlis surmises that Schumann’s enduring popularity with modern composers is that he seemed to compose without rules, that he swung from conservative music forms to stream- of -consciousness and that there was always experimentation hidden just beneath the surface:
His restless spirit is constantly searching, probing finding or needing new ways to express his strange inner life . Perhaps more than any other composer, Schumann can take us into the land of dreams.
Resources you may enjoy
- Schumann by Eric F. Jensen
- Touched with fire: manic depressive illness and the artistic temperament by Kay R. Jamison
- Love letters of great men by Ursula Doyle
Selection of popular Schumann pieces on our music databases
- Popular piano works from our Music Online database
- Cello Concerto from our Naxos Database
- Lieder from our Naxos Database