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Robert Schumann

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Robert Alexander Schumann was born in the small riverside town of

Zwickau, Saxony, in 1810.The youngest of five children, Robert Schumann

was brought up in comfortable, middle-class respectability. As a child, he

apparently exhibited no remarkable abilities.

At the age of six, Robert was sent to the local preparatory school, run

by Archdeacon Dohner. He had in fact already begun his education, with the

young tutor who gave lessons in exchange for board and lodging at the

Schumann home.

At the age of seven Robert received his first piano lessons, from

Johann Gottfried Kuntzsch, organist at St. Mary's Church, and schoolmaster

at the Zwickau Lyceum. Kuntzsch was a kindly, conservative musician of

limited abilities; his knowledge stemmed from leisure-time study.

Nevertheless, Robert was soon improvising, and even composing a set of

dances for the piano.

Robert's musical talent was recognized by his father. He bought an

expensive Streicher grand piano for his son, and soon four-handed

arrangements of the classics were heard in the Schumann home. With a

friend named Friedrich Piltzing, another pupil of Kuntzch's, Robert started to

explore Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.

As a child, Schumann took part in several concerts at the Zwickau

Lyceum. He once played Moscheles' Alexander March variations, which

demanded considerable dexterity.

At the public Lyceum Robert was active as both pianist and public

speaker. When he was fourteen, Kuntzsch decided that his pupil had

progressed beyond the point where he could give further help, and declined to

teach him anymore.

Shortly before leaving the Lyceum, Schumann collaborated with his

brother Karl in preparing a new edition of Forcellini's Latin dictionary,

Lexicon Totius Latinatinis.

Although now very busy as a composer, Robert yearned for affection.

He soon fell for seventeen-year-old Ernestine von Fricken, who came to

Leipzig in April 1834 to live in at the Wiecks', and to study with Clara's

father. She had grown up in the little town of Asch with her father, Baron

von Fricken, and was the illegitimate daughter of Countess Zedtwitz.

At the beginning of September 1835 Robert and Ernestine were

secretly engaged. Within days, Baron von Fricken heard that something was

afoot, arrived in Leipzig, and took Ernestine back to Asch. After secret

discussions, the engagement was broken off by mutual agreement. Possibly

Robert had been kept in the dark about Ernestine's origins.

In any event, the affair had a catalytic effect on Robert's music. He had the

idea of writing a series of piano pieces based on the letters ASCH; these he

later turned into Carnival. He also composed some piano variations on a

theme provided by Baron von Fricken.

But Robert's friend Schunke had fallen seriously ill. Unable to bear

the sight, Robert went back to Zwickau again, only returning to Leipzig in

December to negotiate a change of publisher for the Zeitschrift. From the

beginning of 1835 the journal was published by the Leipzig firm of JA Barth.

Late in 1835 Mendelsson arrived in Leipzig to take over as music

director of the Gewandhaus. Still only twenty-six, Mendelsson was the

director of the age, and Schumann felt an immediate attraction when they met

at Wieck's house. Following the newcomer's debut in Leipzig, Schumann

wrote praising him in the "Letters of an Enthusiast" column of his Zeitzcrift.

Schumann did however venture to criticise Mendelssohn's use of the baton;

he believed that an orchestra should function as a "republic" and that ridgity

should be avoided. At about this time, too, Robert met both Chopin and

Ignaz Moscheles at the Wieck's. Throughout the autumn of 1835 Schumann

was a regular visitor at the Wieck's home, seeing much of Clara, who was

now sixteen. He had been following her career as a virtuoso closely since she

was nine.when he was depressed, she cheered him up. Their talent affection

was now becoming increasingly evident. Robert had

now finished his first piano sonata, dedicated "The evening Clara set out on



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