Schumann, Robert Alexander

Although when he first came to Düsseldorf Schumann's reputation and personality impressed the musical element, and enabled him to succeed for a time in his conductorship, it became evident that he was unfitted for the post, both by lack of natural qualifications and by increasing symptoms of mental disorder. The nervous troubles of his former period of ill health returned with renewed violence. From 1850 he was annoyed by hearing one tone or several ringing in his ears; he had difficulty in expressing himself in words, and all music seemed too fast for him. This materially affected his conducting, as he would take the time too slowly; moreover, his growing lack of self-assertion rendered his beat indecisive, and instead of explaining his conception of a number, correcting mistakes, and directing the men how to play certain passages, he simply made them play the music over without comment. He was also easily tired, and had to rest during the rehearsals. It is said that he even continued beating time after the orchestra had ceased to play. For several years he held the post through the tolerance of the directors, influenced by the general love and esteem in which he was held; but in time these considerations had to be laid aside for the good of the musical organizations. In May, 1853, the Lower Rhine Festival was held at Düsseldorf, and, while Schumann conducted Handel's Messiah and his own D minor symphony, the performance of his other works was entrusted to Hiller. By the autumn of that year matters had become so serious that the directors authorized a committee to suggest to him the advisability of a rest from directing, except in the case of his own compositions, until he should have recovered his health, Julius Tausch, his former associate in the management of the Choral Club, offering to take his place temporarily. Although this was undertaken with the utmost tact and delicacy, Schumann, in his growing irritability and sensitiveness, misconstrued the action and failed to appear at the next rehearsal. After waiting some time for him Tausch took his place, and this ended Schumann's career as a conductor.

After this Schumann sought rest and change in a tour with his wife through the Netherlands, where they were enthusiastically received. With one exception, this was the last pleasant event of Schumann's life. That exception was the appearance of Brahms with a letter of introduction from Joachim. Schumann became deeply interested in the young genius, and wrote in his behalf an article in the Neue Zeitschrift. A few last efforts in composition followed. He wrote, in collaboration with Brahms and Albert Dietrich, a sonata for violin and piano, dedicated to Joachim, who was expected to appear in Düsseldorf soon. He also met Joachim and Brahms once more at Hanover in January, 1854, at a performance of Paradise and the Peri.

Schumann's morbid nervous condition, manifested as early as his eighteenth year in what he called "an ingenuity in clinging to unhappy ideas," often expressed itself in dark forebodings. In 1837 he writes, " I often feel as if I should not live much longer, and I should like to dp a little more work." His marriage quieted his fears for several years, then the old symptoms returned with renewed force. For the last few years of his life he was silent and taciturn; he had always been reserved with all but intimate friends, and now became uncommunicative even to them. In the beginning of 1854 he grew rapidly worse; various illusions and hallucinations revealed the dangerous condition of his mind, and he realized it himself to such an extent that he desired to be taken to a sanitarium, a place the very sight of which had for years filled him with horror. One night he arose in excitement, saying that Schubert and Mendelssohn had brought him a theme, and commenced some variations on this for the piano; Brahms finished the composition, and dedicated it to Schumann's daughter, Julie. On Feb. 27, 1854, when he was sitting among his friends in the gloomy silence which was habitual with him, he arose and went quietly away, and not long afterward it was discovered that he had thrown himself into the Rhine, whence he was, however, rescued. He was now taken to a private asylum at Endenich, near Bonn, in  charge of Dr. Richarz, where he remained until the end, two years later. During his infrequent lucid intervals he received a very few of his nearest friends, and also carried on some correspondence with his wife, but was not allowed to see her until near his death. Most of his time was spent in a deep melancholy, relieved by occasional attempts at composition and improvisation. He died on July 29, 1856, in the arms of his wife, leaving three daughters and four sons to mourn his loss. In 1880 a fine monument was erected by Denndorf on his grave at Bonn. A memorial statue was unveiled at Leipsic in 1875, and one in Zwickau in 1889.