Review: new biography explores the life and work of Schumann

Posted on: November 21, 2018

“It can’t hurt to immerse yourself in the music of Robert Schumann, a man who knew how to love,” writes pianist Jeremy Denk in Monday’s (11/19) New York Times. “Judith Chernaik’s new biography, ‘Schumann: The Faces and the Masks,’ … allows you to feel the core of Schumann’s story: his love for his wife, Clara, a great concert pianist and formidable muse. Between this and the battle against his own demons … Schumann’s spirit comes across…. He was able to distill in small bits of music … these unbelievable concoctions of frustration, beauty, bitterness, burning need and radiant joy. One … musical principle that haunts Schumann’s work … is—oddly—syncopation … making the music seem almost divorced from itself. This sense of being divorced from the self plays a starring role in Chernaik’s biography, as it must.… Chernaik gets the incredible essence of this: how he offloaded his difficult emotional world onto an imaginary band of alternative identities…. I wish she had dug a bit further into the way he translated them into music.… It isn’t a gripping book for the person who already knows Schumann’s music and story, but it is perfect for the newcomer.”

Posted November 21, 2018