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Robert Schumann

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Robert Schumann is a widely-known composer and pianist. He was born in Zwickau, Saxony in 1810. It is widely hailed that he showed the talent to both the written composition and the piano. However, he began his musical career and his training when he was six. The most prominent fact is that he wrote his first composition when he was twelve years old. While being in the school he proved that he is a gifted musician, and he was significantly influenced by Austrian composer Franz Schubert. Robert Schumann had also shown his talent in literary arts and he was influenced by Jean Paul Richter most of all. However, the artist could not choose which way to take in his life, and it happened so that his mother endeavored for him to be placed in the law school. And it was in Leipzig that he met and studied under the Friedrich Wieck who was a prominent piano teacher. That was Friedrich Wieck who recognized the talent. Nevertheless, Robert Schumann had to leave Leipzig as he had to follow a law professor. The professor was sympathetic to the talented musician, and he encouraged him to practice and to become a virtuoso pianist as he saw Robert’s disdain for the law studies. At that time Schumann has already composed a number of waltzes.  That actually helped to persuade his mother and Robert returned to Leipzig to practice in rigorous regime and become a concert pianist (Perrey 58). As a matter of fact, Robert met his wife Clara only thanks to his teacher in Leipzig. Clara Wieck was a daughter of Robert’s teacher. She was nine years younger than Robert and the girl was a gifted pianist. Her trainings began at the age of five and her touring started at nine. She is widely hailed to be elected to the honored Music Society of Vienna. Clara also tried to compose, however her composing skills were affected by the perfect skills of a pianist. Robber Schumann became interested in Clara when she was sixteen. However, their relationships began when the girl was eighteen, because her father forbade the daughter to see the composer for more than sixteen months. Her father even denied Robert Schumann when the man asked her hand in marriage. However, Clara disobeyed and married the beloved despite the absence of father’s permission and the court’s satisfaction. After that Robert Schumann produced over one hundred Lieder and most of them were created to be played by his wife. It was Clara who encouraged Robert to make the style wider. She led Robert to orchestral music and to various chamber works. Actually, Clara created a number of opuses and piano songs but later she understood that despite her talent, there had been no women to compose before, and she should not be the one who expects to be a woman-composer. That is why she became a main interpreter of Robert’s music (Stern). They made a perfect couple, as he wrote and she played. Actually, the family life influenced both artists. It opened them new perspectives. As Robert and Clara had seven children, they opened a new dimension for creativity. They could compose and play for children and about children or about the childhood. However, Clara’s father was right about Schumann’s lack in discipline and stability. The artist was often depressed, and it happened more and more with every year. He also suffered from the mental breakdown however he was able to fight it and recover. Later he became a Director of Music in Dusseldorf. But, the artist had been forced to resign as he constantly showed his tempers and depression. Actually, he even tried to commit suicide, but was rescued by the fisherman. After that he asked to be taken to the asylum, where he died in 1856 (Perrey 65). After the death of her husband, Clara had to travel with the concert piano circuit just to support her children. At the same time she edited the works by Robert Schumann, and she tried to preserve them as much as possible. The wife of widely hailed musical genius died forty years later than her husband (Stern). Robert Schumann’s works are highly autobiographical. Most of them have descriptive titles and texts. His works were the source where he could express his lyrical nature that is why the music is very emotional. Robert Schumann always tried to think about the music in literary, autobiographical and emotional terms. Actually, his chromantisism, harmonies, rhythmic and tonal ambiguity definitely left the audience of that period puzzled. Generally, Schumann’s works were not the example of classical forms, and they were absolutely romantic. Also his music was very much related to poetry, paintings and even various personal allusions, and moods. Carnaval is his cycle which consists of twenty-one short pieces. They have highly descriptive titles which represent masked revels. This is the work which gives the musical expression to the very Robert Schumann, to his various friends and colleagues and even characters from the improvised Italian comedy. The work was created for piano solo (Zhang). The work was done in such a way that the music begins from the main idea, after that it changes, and returns to the main idea again which now looks a bit different. It can be said that the tempo of the work is very light ad fast. Only when the melody changes as the musician proceeds to the second part it becomes much slower.

Generally speaking, Robert Schumann was one of the great pioneers of the rhythm and meter in his times. These elements were regarded to be significant expressive elements (Perrey 72). It is widely known that Carnaval is prominent thanks to brilliant chordal passages and the use of rhythmical displacement. As a matter of fact this can be compared to the distortion of poetic rhythm. Poetic rhythm is already a complex issue that is why the relations between the musical (especially vocal) rhythm and poetic one is even more complicated. Poetic rhythm is a constant rhythm which has an accentual and durational component, and it underlines the recitation of a poem (Krebs, 268). When the poetry is set on music, it is understandable that the main rhythm might be subjected to even more drastic deformations. This fact explains that even when the song is naturalized it will be called topological distortions of the utterance because of the rhythmical and harmonic stress of the music. This might include various stretching, pulling and twisting of different forms of the speech. However, these deformations are not the issue of the composer’s whims. As a matter of fact, it should be used by the composer because of expressive reasons. Generally speaking, such distortions of poetic rhythm are very common in Schumann’s works (269). The work Carnaval is very complicated and it is the most characteristic piano work. The cryptogram that the artist uses opining every section of the work is of particular interest. He uses the musical letters to code his own name. This fact shows the fascination of the artist with various enigmas and musical quotations. That was the work in which the artist conceived the story together with the musical representation. His work might be named very melodic and relatively simple, however, because of rhythmical, distortions it is complex in the harmonic structures. Despite that because of the fact that the work was created to be a solo piano, it was rarely performed in public during the Schumann’s lifetime. Nevertheless, some sections of Carnaval were performed in Leipzig in 1840 by Franz List. Another work by Robert Schumann which might be of particular interest is Dichterliebe. It is translated as ‘The poet’s love’. This work is known to be the best song cycle. As a matter of fact, the texts for these songs were the sixteen verses of Heinrich Heine. The influence of these poems is significant, as these verses are actually reflecting the hyper-sensitive nature of the artists. It may be seen in the small chromaticism and suspensions. Robert Schuman also uses rhythmical distortions he actually adapts some words of poems by Heine for his needs for his songs. It generally means that he used repetitions, and sometimes he even rewords the line for the benefit of the desires cadence. The artist was definitely inspired by the poet, however even the poems appeared to become an integral artistic work of Robert Schumann. The verses selected for the processing encompassed absolutely different topics. Robert Schumann had chosen the lyrics in such a way for them to be one, two or threes short stanza. That is why the vocabulary and the diction are plain. That is actually why most of the songs are created and played in a very simple meter and rhythm schemes, which are considered to resemble the folk songs. The exception might be only the song ‘Ich grolle nicht’. This collection might be separated into three different parts. The first four songs might be encompasses under the title ‘love’, songs 5-11 are dedicated to the topic ‘crisis’ and the last four show the theme of ‘reconciliation’. All of the critics believe that most of the wonderful piano postludes appear in the Dichterliebe. For instance, he created there the mood of wedding dance and on the other side he showed the sense of violence. The wedding scene is created in the ninth song, and afterwards it turns into an extended postlude. We can also find the rising chromatic line and crescendo at the end of the tenth song. The twelfth song will have the pensive ending and this ending will echo in the prominent augmented sixth harmony. Generally speaking, songs are very harmonically organized and even the moods change are done for the balance (Hallmark).  However, Schumann’s music is a real challenge to sing, as it was created to use both the highest heights and the lowest depth of a tenor voice. If the singer used too low voice, a lot of the songs would not be audible at all. One of the important things to be preserved is the relationships between various keys of different songs. That is why the songs should be taken down at an equal distance (Hallmark). From the very beginning the work was dedicated to Wilhelmine Devrient. That is actually the primary reason why the performance had to be done in the female voice. The fist full recital of the work was done in London by Harry Plunket Greene.

Robert Schumann was a great German composer who had a significant impact on the burgeoning Romantic Movement. He created new forms and filled them with personal subjectivity and emotiveness what definitely transformed the classical tradition. He is the one who stands between the conservatives and the ultra progressives of the nineteenth century. He applied new unusual devices, such as distortion of the poetic rhythm, various hypermetric irregularities and understated metrical dissonances. However, some of the works are maybe less interesting from the rhythmic standpoint, but they are full of harmony, emotions, and remarkably expressive effects.

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