Robert Schumann was one of the most prolific composers of the romantic era. He is best remembered for his piano and vocal repertoire as well as his symphonic and chamber music, contributing significantly to each genre that existed at the time.
As well as being a pianist and composer, he was also deeply interested in literature, which made him a historically well-informed musician whose composition style can be said to owe homage to literary models. As a 14 year old he wrote an essay on the aesthetics of music and while still at school read works by the great philosophers Schiller, Goethe, Byron and the Greek tragedies.
At age 18, Schumann went to Leipzig in the spring, to study law, but unfortunately proved to be indifferent to it, describing it as ‘ice cold’. According to various fellow students, Schumann was said to have ‘not attended a single lecture’. Instead, music and literature featured strongly in his first year in Leipzig and by August of that year he was studying piano with Friedrich Wieck, who was to be a notable figure in Schumann’s professional and personal life.
Schumann seemed to have focused on various specific genres at different periods of his life. Keyboard music seemed to feature strongly between 1833 and 1839. After becoming engaged to Clara Wieck, following legal action and threats and personal criticisms from Clara’s father, Schumann had a very fruitful period of musical creativity. A few days after she agreed to marry him, he set to work on the Davidsbundlertanze, op 6 in which he proclaims his debt to Clara’s muse with a quotation of Clara’s Soiree musicale.
Clara’s own career as a concert pianist exceeded Schumann’s own reputation as a composer, which was a cause for great resentment. In his youth, Schumann had showed great promise as a pianist but his chances of life as a performer were hindered due to a hand injury.