Schumann, Robert Alexander
Up to the year of his marriage Schumann had composed almost exclusively for the piano, it being the only instrument with which he was familiar, and most of his composition being done while seated at the piano. Now the consummation of his long desired happiness sought an outlet in a veritable stream of songs, over one hundred and twenty-five in all. In his letters he says that he experienced such intense excitement and pleasure in this hitherto untried form of composition that he felt as if he could sing himself to death, " like a nightingale." By the end of the year following his marriage this passion had abated, and Schumann expressed himself as satisfied that he had done his best work in this line. He wrote no more songs for nine years, and then produced almost as many again, but none of them equal to the best of this year.
From this time Schumann followed a definite plan of composition, working on one department of music until he felt that he had accomplished in it all that he could, then turning to another. Schumann was doubtless enabled to do this by his comparatively retired life. His journal was established, he was seldom called upon for outside affairs, and his devoted wife shielded him from responsibilities or influences that would interfere with composing and writing. From 1841 to 1845 he produced the best of his large works, composing three symphonies in the former year. The B flat symphony was performed in March of this year at a concert given by his wife at the Gewandhaus under Mendelssohn's direction. The other two were given in December, though not with equal success, and as Mendelssohn was absent in Berlin during this winter, Schumann published the B flat and laid the others away to be brought out later. The D minor symphony, although the second composed, was not published till 1851, and is known as the Fourth, while the third came out in 1845. The year 1842 was devoted to chamber-music, and the following years to choral works, the best of which, Paradise and the Peri, was produced in December, 1843, at the Dresden Opera House. This work, which has been called Schumann's climax, firmly established his reputation in Germany. Another important work composed during the same year is the Variations for two pianos.
On the organization of the Leipsic Conservatory in 1843 under Mendelssohn, Schumann became professor of piano, composition and score-playing there, but gave up the post the next year. Little is known of his work as a teacher, but from his reserved disposition and increasing disinclination to assert himself in word or action, it is surmised that he succeeded no better in this line than he did in the more public work of conducting some years later. He preferred to occupy himself with composition, even dreading the occasional trips made with his wife on her tours, and was beginning to feel his literary work a burden. All this was to a great extent the effect of ill health, and in 1844, when he had begun the music to Goethe's Faust, he was obliged to give up all work and rest the remainder of the year. He had accompanied his wife to Hamburg early in 1842, and the following summer to Bohemia. She induced him with some difficulty to go to Russia, where she played in Riga, Moscow and St. Petersburg, and introduced his works. He met Henselt in the last city, where she played with that pianist her husband's Variations for two pianos, above mentioned. In 1846 they went to Vienna, where Clara played his piano concerto; Schumann himself conducted his B flat symphony there, and then Paradise and the Peri in Berlin. These were not especially well received, but Prague gave them a cordial welcome. In 1844 Schumann was compelled to move to a quieter place, where less music could be heard, and so retired to Dresden. Even his musical memory had been affected by his health. During 1846 he became again well enough to resume work, and produced his studies and sketches for pedal piano, six fugues on Bach, and four fugues for piano. His C major symphony, composed during this year, was brought out at Leipsic under Mendelssohn in November. At Dresden he became acquainted with several musical people; Weber's widow lived there, and was intelligent and musically appreciative; Ferdinand Hiller became an intimate friend, and he met Wagner, with whom he was friendly to some extent, though their natures were antagonistic in some respects. Schumann admired Tannhauser, but with reservations. In 1847 he succeeded Hiller as conductor of the Male Choral Society in that city, but was out of his element there, and his choruses for male voices are not adapted to the tastes of the ordinary mannerchor, and have therefore been used but little. The following year he accepted the leadership of a society of mixed voices. This proved far more satisfactory; it gave him healthier interests, and brought him more into social life. He wrote much for this society, and in January, 1850, it gave two performances of Paradise and the Peri. His success as conductor of this society encouraged Schumann, as he had at first been very diffident concerning his ability to conduct. Hearing the rumor, which after ward proved erroneous, that Reitz was going to Berlin, he applied for the post of conductor at the Gewandhaus.