Robert Schumann – complicated musical genius

Cover2010 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

Selection of popular Schumann pieces on our music databases

Schumann in our collection

One thought on “Robert Schumann – complicated musical genius

  1. Victoria 3 September 2010 / 1:17 pm

    What a tragic life for such a brilliant mind! But isn’t it the common lifepath for so many genius composers – Robert Schumann, Frederic Chopin, Peter Tchaikovsky, Ludwig van Beethoven…
    The direct links to listening to Schumann’s music directly from the blog are very appreciated – what a great idea!

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