New biography seeks to pull back Schumann’s romantic façade

Posted on: December 14, 2012

In Thursday’s (12/13) Wall Street Journal, Norman Lebrecht writes, “The life and death of Robert Schumann is, to most appearances, a case history of romantic excess. The composer did his best to embody the spirit of the age, placing emotion above reason, venerating nature and creating the art that the Zeitgeist demanded. … From the age of 12, his eye was drawn to his piano teacher’s gifted daughter, a pianist herself. When Schumann proposed to her in 1837—she was 17, he 27—her father objected to the match. Schumann fought him through the courts until Clara was free to decide for herself. … [In his new Schumann biography,] Martin Geck, a musicologist from Dortmund, Germany, seeks to fillet fact from fantasy, adopting a neutral tone to measure the life against the works, and vice versa. Sweeping aside romantic adornments, he uncovers an erudite, original and conscientious composer. Behind Schumann’s florid exterior ticked an organized brain, Mr. Geck argues. No dreamer could have founded and edited a twice-weekly newspaper, the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, practically inventing German music criticism. Some of his reviews changed the course of music history.”

Posted December 14, 2012