Robert Schumann

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 September 1835 Robert and Ernestine were
secretly engaged. Within days, Baron von Fricken heard that something was
afoot, arrived in Leipzig, and took Ernestine back to Asch. After secret
discussions, the engagement was broken off by mutual agreement. Possibly
Robert had been kept in the dark about Ernestine\'s origins.

In any event, the affair had a catalytic effect on Robert\'s music. He had the
idea of writing a series of piano pieces based on the letters ASCH; these he
later turned into Carnival. He also composed some piano variations on a
theme provided by Baron von Fricken.
But Robert\'s friend Schunke had fallen seriously ill. Unable to bear
the sight, Robert went back to Zwickau again, only returning to Leipzig in
December to negotiate a change of publisher for the Zeitschrift. From the
beginning of 1835 the journal was published by the Leipzig firm of JA Barth.
Late in 1835 Mendelsson arrived in Leipzig to take over as music
director of the Gewandhaus. Still only twenty-six, Mendelsson was the
director of the age, and Schumann felt an immediate attraction when they met
at Wieck\'s house. Following the newcomer\'s debut in Leipzig, Schumann
wrote praising him in the "Letters of an Enthusiast" column of his Zeitzcrift.
Schumann did however venture to criticise Mendelssohn\'s use of the baton;
he believed that an orchestra should function as a "republic" and that ridgity
should be avoided. At about this time, too, Robert met both Chopin and
Ignaz Moscheles at the Wieck\'s. Throughout the autumn of 1835 Schumann
was a regular visitor at the Wieck\'s home, seeing much of Clara, who was
now sixteen. He had been following her career as a virtuoso closely since she
was nine.when he was depressed, she cheered him up. Their talent affection
was now becoming increasingly evident. Robert had
now finished his first piano sonata, dedicated "The evening Clara set out on
an important concert tour, Robert came to wish her well, and kissed her
good-bye. They saw each other again in Zwickau, and kissed again. In the
new year Robert traveled to Dresden, where he knew Clara was spending a
holiday without her father, and made his declaration of love.
Schumann seems to have thought Clara\'s father would welcome him
as his son-in-law. He was wrong. Hearing that Robert and Clara had been
meeting behind his back, Wieck was enraged, and wrote to Robert insisting
that all relations be
severed. At the same time he distracted Clara\'s attention by flaunting her a
new singing teacher, Karl Banck.
Clara, only just sixteen, was regarded by her father as a mere child.
Wieck had nurtured her talents, and