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 Sep…
…itary note beating in Robert’s ears, giving him no peace. On 26
February 1854 Robert begged Clara to have him committed to an asylum, but
was finally persuaded by the doctor to go to bed.
Later Clara discovered that Robert had thrown himself into the River
Rhine, and fisherman had rescued him.
On March 4 Robert was taken to Dr. Richarz’s private asylum at
Endenich, near Bonn. At intervals his mind cleared a little.
On June 8 1856, Robert’s birthday, Brahams found him thin,
oblivious of every thing outside, picking names out of an atlas and putting
them into alphabetical order. On Thursday 29 July Robert was finally
released from his suffering. At four in the afternoon he fell asleep. He passed
away without anyone noticing. Clara did not see him until half an hour later. Schumann was buried at seven o’clock on the morning of 31 July
1856 in Bonn. Brahms and Joachin walked in front of the coffin which was
carried by some of the Dusseldorf choir. Clara asked that a few friends be
That was the life and death of Robert Schumann.