Schumann, Robert (Alexander)


Schumann, Robert (Alexander)

biographical name

(born June 8, 1810, Zwickau, Saxony—died July 29, 1856, Endenich, near Bonn, Prussia) German composer. Son of a bookseller, he considered becoming a novelist. Under family pressure he reluctantly entered law school, but he devoted his time to song composition and piano lessons. An injury to one of his fingers put an end to his hopes of a career as a virtuoso and confined him to composition. He embarked upon a prolific period, writing piano pieces and founding, in 1834, the New Journal for Music. His works from this fertile period include Papillons, Carnaval (both 1833–35), and Davidsbündlertänze (1837). He married the pianist Clara Wieck in 1840. That year he returned to the field of the solo song; in the span of 11 months he composed nearly all the songs on which much of his reputation rests, such as the song cycles Dichterliebe and Frauenliebe und Leben. The next year he widened his scope to orchestral music, producing Symphony No. 1, Symphony No. 4, and his piano concerto; in 1842 he concentrated on chamber music. In his last productive years, he turned to dramatic or semidramatic works. His mental deterioration (probably associated with both syphilis and a family history of mental illness) accelerated; in 1854 he was placed in a sanatorium, where he died two years later.

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