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Robert Schumann: Herald of a "New Poetic Age" [Kindle Edition]

John Daverio
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Forced by a hand injury to abandon a career as a pianist, Robert Schumann went on to become one of the world's great composers. Among many works, his Spring Symphony (1841), Piano Concerto in A Minor (1841/1845), and the Third, or Rhenish, Symphony (1850) exemplify his infusion of classical forms with intense, personal emotion. His musical influence continues today and has inspired many other famous composers in the century since his death. Indeed Brahms, in a letter of January 1873, wrote: "The remembrance of Schumann is sacred to me. I will always take this noble pure artist as my model."
Now, in Robert Schumann: Herald of a "New Poetic Age," John Daverio presents the first comprehensive study of the composer's life and works to appear in nearly a century. Long regarded as a quintessentially romantic figure, Schumann also has been portrayed as a profoundly tragic one: a composer who began his career as a genius and ended it as a mere talent. Daverio takes issue with this Schumann myth, arguing instead that the composer's entire creative life was guided by the desire to imbue music with the intellectual substance of literature. A close analysis of the interdependence among Schumann's activities as reader, diarist, critic, and musician reveals the depth of his literary sensibility. Drawing on documents only recently brought to light, the author also provides a fresh outlook on the relationship between Schumann's mental illness--which brought on an extended sanitarium stay and eventual death in 1856--and his musical creativity. Schumann's character as man and artist thus emerges in all its complexity. The book concludes with an analysis of the late works and a postlude on Schumann's influence on successors from Brahms to Berg.
This well-researched study of Schumann interprets the composer's creative legacy in the context of his life and times, combining nineteenth-century cultural and intellectual history with a fascinating analysis of the works themselves.

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Biographies of 19th-century composer Robert Schumann abound, but room should be made on library shelves for one more. Daverio (chair, musicology, Boston Univ. Sch. for the Arts) has written a scholarly but entertaining history of the quintessential Romantic composer. Drawing on diaries, travel notes, and household accounts, he portrays Schumann as a tragic figure who experienced euphoric periods of creativity and bouts of depression and despair. His father was an author and publisher, and as a young man, Schumann showed great promise as a writer. His marriage to Clara Wieck, a brilliant pianist; his years in a lunatic asylum; and his death at 46 from syphilis make compelling reading. Of even greater value is the way Daverio connects Schumann's largely autobiographical music to the events in his personal life as well as to his passion for literature. Recommended for academic libraries and large music collections in public libraries.?Kate McCaffrey, Onondaga Cty. P.L., Syracuse,
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Plagued by depression and eventually by syphilis, the arch-Romantic Schumann (1810^-56) would compose music frenetically and then endure excruciating periods of creative drought. Pianist and composer Clara Wieck, whom he married in 1840, exerted a stabilizing influence on him, and together they concertized, traveled, and raised several children. Following his 1850 appointment as director of the municipal music organizations of Dusseldorf, his health gradually declined until he committed himself to an asylum in 1854. He was also a writer who edited and published a music review and who, throughout his life, read the major German and English novelists, poets, and playwrights. Moreover, he incorporated poetry into his instrumental music as well as his lieder, and Daverio describes Schumann through his music, showing how his love of literature influenced his compositions. This is a cogent and sensitive biography of a pioneering composer who sought to and did capture poetry in his music. Alan Hirsch

Product Details

  • File Size: 5236 KB
  • Print Length: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (February 12, 1997)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004VEEOD0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #469,229 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Dignified and Knowledgeable Treatment December 22, 2005
As other reviewers have said, this is not the biography to read if you want to be titillated by the real or imagined sexual peccadillos of a great master. Instead, this is a critical biography in the best sense. John Daverio's book unfolds Schumann's life with warmth and deep respect for its subject and without undo speculation. Then it goes on to an appreciation of the music whose only failing might be a too-positive appraisal of some works that critics have formerly been cool or even hostile toward. In certain cases, though, Daverio is clearly right. Obviously a well-trained musician, perhaps he can imagine beauties that others have not found through a study of the scores, for many of the works he praises are not available in recorded form--some haven't been heard for ages, I'm sure. This includes, for example, the choral ballads from Schumann's last years. Daverio praises Das Gluck von Edenhall as the finest among them and even argues for its rehabilitation to the repertoire. Knowing Die Sangers Fluch and other examples of Schumann's late choral music, I'm somewhat skeptical. The music in these works is generally four-square and lacking in the orchestral and vocal color the master brought to earlier pieces such as Paradise und die Peri or Requiem fur Mignon. But who can say? Perhaps Das Gluck is an unknown gem that should be taken up again by choral-music groups.

The point is that Daverio listens afresh to (or imagines skillfully from the printed score) music that others have dismissed as the work of a genius in decline, and he makes an undeniable point: though Schumann's last works are uneven, they don't represent a thorough collapse of musical powers but in some cases a wholly new approach to musical problems.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top-notch Biography and Analysis July 17, 2001
This biography is a superb survey of Schumann's life and works. Those of us who adore Schumann's music have found a great musicologist and champion in John Daverio. His insight into German Romantic music was already made stunningly clear in his previous book on 19th Century music and German Romantic Ideology. Now this book concentrates on the arch-Romantic composer who synthesized the old and the new to create a "New Way" for music. While being deeply analytical when necessary, particularly in regard to the musical works themselves, Daverio writes in a very accessible style which brings his subject quite vividly to life. And Daverio's concluding remarks are timely, beautiful and extremely touching. Just a wonderful book in every respect.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb scholarship, daring musical analysis June 17, 2004
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Daverio's biography of Robert Schuman eschews the hackneyed themes familiar to what he terms "psychobiography"--dwelling on the supposed interrelationship between Schumann's idiosyncratic style and his mental collapse following the composition of the marvelous "Gesange der Fruhe." Instead, he offers insight after insight into the originality of Schumann's musical (and literary) genius, especially as they inform what he terms Schumann's uniquely "literary" musical enterprise. A must read for any Schumann devotee.
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I really love the music of Robert Schumann and consider him as my favourite composer. I am familar with most of his ouvre and as amateurpianist I have played most of his early piano works, though far from perfection. I am very fascinated in all sides of Schumann and the social and creative context he worked and lived whitin. This book fills the gap I have missed in earlier readings of and about the composer. Highly interesting book both as a biography and as musicological-poetic assessment, the author reveals deep insight in the man and his oeuvre. Specially emphasis on how his music is embedded in literal and narrative structures. Last but not least: the author sees the last periode in a new light, arguing that Schumanns music in his last years preserves the same qualitative and creative power as ever before.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Splendid July 6, 2008
Robert Schumann (b. June 8 1810, d. July 29 1856) Herald of a New Poetic Age, by: John Daverio. Published 1997 by Oxford University Press, Inc. (I bought it on 21 January 2000)

Twice I read this book and I must say I enjoyed all the chapters. But was there any LOVE between Clara and Brahms? Was there any intercourse after Robert's gone? I have chosen the following excerpts that are of particular interest to me ...............

Forced by a hand injury to abandon a career as a pianist, RS went on to become one of the world's great composers.......... Brahms in a letter of January 1873 wrote ""The remembrance of Schumann is sacred to me. I will always take this noble pure artist as my model""
Antinomy: A contradiction between two statements that seem equally reasonable

P 4: ""It is easy to write a Schumann biography because Schumann wrote it himself. It is difficult to write a Schumann biography because the modern biographer must chart the composer's relationships to his complicated and contradictory social surroundings"" Karl Laux. - There is wealth of biographical material -travel notes, diaries maintained with some regularity from January 1827 to early 1854. - Households account books with entries extending from early October 1837 to 23 February 1854 - that is to just four days before Schumann's suicide attempt ... marriage diaries jointly kept by Clara from Sept 1840

P 6 From late March 1833 to July 1836 Schumann did not keep diary. He was an ardent bibliophile - Someone who loves (and usually collects) books.

P. 7: Hermeneutic; (Interpretive or explanatory) challenges posed by Schumann's diaries - his works poured forth at the behest of mysterious voices from the beyond ...
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