Schumann, Robert Alexander

And now came the turning point in his career. Too impatient to attain technical proficiency quickly, because of the delay in his study, he invented what he supposed to be a short cut to the desired end. The lack of restraint in his boyhood's pursuit of music seemed to have engendered a false confidence in his own judgment, for he gave up his lessons with Wieck, and practised alone, secretly using a mechanical appliance which tied up the weakest finger of his right hand while he practised with the others. The result is well known; he permanently lamed not only that finger but the whole hand, and though he tried every possible remedy when he realized the grave nature of his mistake, all hope of a virtuoso's career had to be abandoned. Fortunately, he had become interested in composition, and the disappointment was not so severe as it might have been; while his art gained immeasurably by the transfer of his attention to the production of original works. In this first period of composition his works, while rich in musical imagery, show a lack of control of form; they include the papillons and variations on the notes represented by the letters of the surname Abegg, Schumann in that manner commemorating his meeting with a charming young lady of that name. He was a somewhat impressionable youth, judging from his letters. In 1830 he heard Paganini, and two years later he arranged for piano the caprices of that violinist, referring to them in a letter as a " dear adopted child." The next year he composed a set of impromptus on a theme by Clara Wieck, who already revealed gifts in composing as well as playing. This year, 1833, was an eventful one to Schumann. He had been residing in his teacher's home, but now took rooms in another house, although his intimacy with Wieck's family was as great as ever. He was in the habit of spending his evenings at the Kaffeebaum with a number of "kindred spirits," who discussed various musical matters. At that time, while there was much music in Leipsic well performed, musical criticism was in an enervated condition; those who essayed to pose as critics fawned on the superficial favorites of the hour. Some energetic member of Schumann's informal circle proposed a new musical journal, which was issued first in April, 1834, as the Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik, edited in collaboration by Schumann, Friedrich Wieck, Ludwig Schunke and Julius Knorr. Of these, Schunke was the only thorough musician, but needed considerable assistance from Schumann in his articles. The year previous Schumann had written a sort of literary rhapsody on Chopin's second published work, which was given space in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung. The new paper was published first by Hartmann, and from the beginning of the year 1835, by Earth, both at Leipsic; with  the change of publisher Schumann became proprietor and sole editor, his tenture of this work lasting for ten years. After the summer of 1844 he contributed nothing further to it except his last work in that line, the one which introduced to the musical world, as he had before introduced Chopin and others, his worthy successor, Brahms. The style of the Neue Zeitschrift was indeed a novelty. Schumann wrote under several pseudonyms, each representing a group of faculties in his own nature. The energetic, passionate, impulsive side was called Florestan; the calmer, more thoughtful and tender, Eusebius; while Meister Raro was a sort of mediator between these two, althought used sometimes to represent Wieck. Some of his compositions also bear one or the other of the two names mentioned. Jeanquirit was another name under which Schumann wrote his articles. A kind of imaginary secret society, called the Davidsbündler Davidites appeared in these columns, although existing only in Schumann's brain. The honorary members were his favorite musical friends and objects of his admiration, including Jonathan (possibly Schunke), Serpentin (Carl Banck, a song-composer connected for some  time with the Neue Zeitschrift), Chiara (Clara Wieck, who was also called Zilia, short for Cecilia), Felix Mentis (Mendelssohn), etc. Many of these people were unaware of their membership in this society organized to combat the Philistines, or enemies, of musical progress. While this journal took much of Schumann's time, allowing him in the first few years little leisure for composition, it meant to him not only an income but a means of contact with the musical world, which his natural shyness and reserve would otherwise have avoided, as he never suffered from poverty, nor felt the need for daily bread as a spur to action. The necessity of producing something periodically was just the practical stimulus needed by his dreamy nature, and possibly delayed the ascendency of that fatal disorder which first manifested itself in 1833, after Schumann received the news of his sister-in-law's death. From that night of unnatural mental agony he dreaded sleeping on any floor higher than the first.