2 Nov 2014

Robert Schumann (1810-1856)

From Composer of the Week, 9:00 am on 2 November 2014
Robert Schumann, 1839 lithograph

Robert Schumann, 1839 lithograph Photo: Public Domain

Robert Johnson presents a survey of Schumann’s chamber and solo piano music. As he says, “One of the unusual aspects of Schumann’s career as a composer is the way he tended to concentrate on one particular field of musical endeavour at a time. The decade of the 1830s was almost entirely devoted to the piano. […] In 1842 he turned decisively to the field of chamber music.”

Johnson also emphasises the quality of the works written in the last six years of Schumann’s life. “For a long time – too long,” he says, “the late works of Schumann have suffered from a blanket dismissal that refuses to judge them on their own merits.  The life story of Schumann, told for decades, has presented him as a man suffering from lifelong mental illness that he managed to stave off for two decades, but which thereafter increasingly contributed to a gradual creative decline. Such a decline isn’t supported by the evidence, either of Schumann’s life or of his music. The pity is that this legend has tainted both critical and popular attitudes to Schumann’s late music, so that even now, more than 150 years after his death, a reassessment is badly needed.

Music Details:

Schumann: Papillons – Nelson Freire (Decca)
Schumann: Piano Quartet in C minor – Trio Parnassus, Harold Schlichtig (vla) (MDG)
Schumann: Etudes symphoniques – Murray Perahia (piano) (CBS)
Schumann: Fantasy in C Op 17 – Maurizio Pollini (piano) (DG)
Schumann: String Quartet no 3 in A Op 41/3 – Zehetmair Quartet (ECM)
Schumann: Piano Trio No 1 in D minor Op 65 – Andnes/Tetzlaff/Tetzlaff (EMI)
Schumann: Gesänge der Frühe Op 133 – Paolo Gicometti (piano) (Channel Classics)
Schumann: Geistervariotionen – András Schiff (piano) (ECM)

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