Schumann, Robert Alexander

Schumann's journal was a power for good in bringing the younger composers of merit before the public in a favorable and kindly light. His appreciative articles were of benefit to Mendelssohn, Hiller, Heller, Sterndale Bennett, Gade, Berlioz and Franz, irrespective of nationality, and showed a wide and generous sympathy, and true culture in the writer. When his criticisms were severe, they were never without good reason, and his sharpest invectives were reserved for such sins against art as the insincerities of Meyerbeer, who lowered his really great talent to cater to unworthy popular demands. In 1835 Schumann met Mendelssohn at the home of the Wiecks, and afterward saw much of him. He greatly admired him as a man and a musician, and dedicated to him the three string quartets written in 1842. Mendelssohn seems to have held kindly personal relations with Schumann, however little he appreciated him as a composer. He seems to have thought of Schumann as a literary man and art critic, a class which he disliked on general principles, and to have been unable to dissociate his opinion of him from that first impression.

The year 1836 was an important one in Schumann's life. His mother died in February; and a little later his admiration and friendship for Clara Wieck took on a shade of warmer feeling as she grew into womanhood. His brief engagement to Ernestine von Fricken, a pretty music pupil of Wieck, who was decidedly Clara's inferior, had been dissolved by mutual consent the previous year; and after some months of separation, while Clara was away on a concert tour, and diffident hesitation on his part, he found that the only real love of his life was returned. Wieck opposed the marriage, and for four years Schumann labored in vain for his consent. Realizing that Wieck's attitude toward his uncertain financial prospects had some justice in it, he finally removed to Vienna in the hope of increasing the paper's returns; but receiving no benefit from the change he remained there only six months, then returned to Leipsic. His short stay in Vienna brought about one of the most important of his many unselfish services to music. Meeting the brother of Schubert he discovered a treasure in the latter's C major symphony, which, on his return in 1839, he succeeded in having performed under Mendelssohn's direction at the Gewandhaus. The following summer he visited Berlin, and soon afterward obtained the degree of Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Jena. After the failure of all his attempts to satisfy Wieck, he carried the matter into court, according to the German custom, and was victorious. In September, 1840, he married Clara Wieck, and entered upon one of the happiest and most appropriate unions known in the lives of artists, a marriage paralleled only, perhaps, by that of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Clara Schumann was the inspiration of his best compositions from the time when he first became conscious of his love for her, and after their marriage brought to the notice of the world many of his works. Although they reared a family of eight children, she did not give up her public career but traveled often in concert, Schumann accompanying her on many of her tours. At that time she was so much better known than he that at one appearance where she charmed royalty by her playing, it is related, a prince asked her after the performance, "And is your husband also musical?" The struggles of the years in which Schumann was striving to gain his wife are recorded both in his letters to intimate friends and in the music produced during that time. One friend, Frau Henriette Voigt, a pupil of Ludwig Berger, appears so often in these letters, and was so often a consoler, that she is worthy of mention. She died in 1839, too soon to witness the happiness of her friend.

This period, from 1836 to 1839, gave to the world the most famous and most beautiful works for the piano that Schumann ever wrote. The Fantasia, opus 17, the F minor sonata, the Fantasiestücke, the Davidsbundlertanze, Novelletten, Kinderscenen, Kreisleriana, Nachtstücke, Humoreske, and other works of this period, are characterized by a spirit of mental and emotional conflict and unrest, with much beauty of expression, and a growing command of form in which his earlier works were deficient, although the well-known Symphonic fitudes, constituting variations on a theme, which the composer himself attributed to Ernestine yon Fricken's father, are said to be chiefly interesting because of their form. Schumann said himself that the battles which Clara cost him were largely reflected in his music, of which she was now almost the sole inspiration. The critics received Schumann's compositions well, and both Liszt and Moscheles wrote and published articles commenting very favorably on his piano works, but other musicians were silent concerning them, and it was not until the publication of the Kinderscenen, which are not properly children's music, but rather sketches of child life for older people, that the' general public began to like his music.