- Paperback: 496 pages
- Publisher: Yale University Press (May 18, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0300163983
- ISBN-13: 978-0300163988
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #897,777 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Robert Schumann: Life and Death of a Musician Paperback – May 18, 2010
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Several myths surround the life and death of Robert Schumann (1810-56). In this biography, even without musical analysis, Worthen describes a man driven to create and perform music; support his wife, Clara, and seven children; and leave a legacy of compositions and writings for succeeding generations. He fought gallantly for the hand of pianist Clara Wieck (1819-96), overcoming all obstacles her father put in his way. Syphilis lay behind the insanity of his final two years. Before then, he composed very quickly in a variety of forms, dedicating much of his output to Clara and close friends. Money was a constant concern early on, but with the support of contemporaries, including Liszt, Mendelssohn, and Joachim, and the post of director of music in Dusseldorf, he maintained a comfortable living. Drawing on letters, diaries, and previous biographies, Worthen relates Schumann's life in sometimes excruciating detail, dispelling myths of possible bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. One of the best biographies of a composer who had a lust for a life of music, family, and friends. Alan Hirsch
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Top Customer Reviews
This book is also a very good choice for those that are uncomfortable with the technical language of music and music notation. Schumann's music is not dealt with in these terms, but rather in the context of his life and musical development. This treatment is thorough enough, however, that those who are more familiar with music will gain much in reading it.
One quibble I have with the book is that I find Worthen's concept of manic-depressive disorder (bipolar I) very narrow, if not outright wrong at times. For example, he mentions times in which Schumann was particularly agitated and hyper-sensitive for periods of weeks or months. In doing so, he stresses that Schumann is not depressed since he is not showing the classic signs of depression that would characterize the depressive state of manic-depressive disorder, and that he was still able to work effectively through these periods. As someone who is familiar with this subject, my own thoughts are that these periods sound in fact, VERY much like dysphoric MANIC states or mixed states, which are often seen in patients with bipolar disorder and often misinterpreted by non-specialists.Read more ›
Very well written, easy to read. Rather thouroughly documented. Sufficiently illustrated. Academic in the sense that year-long accepted "truths" about Schumann's (mental) health are questioned and challenged. After reading this book I think you have a good picture of the life (and death) of Robert Schumann.
It's a tricky business to "diagnose" people deceased centuries ago, only based on diaries, doctor's comments, etc. (what was the level of medical expertise in Leipzig in the first half of the nineteenth century? Some of remarks by several doctor's seem to have been taken at face-value) Although Worthen makes well documented assumptions about Schumann's health, there remains an element of uncertainty and doubt. After all, you never saw the "patient"...
At times I find the book too apologetic towards Schumann. His social skills seem to have been under-developed(creating, on a personal level, problems with visitors, but also on a professional level with choirs and orchestras). Some of his works were not that great, especially some larger-scale works. For these, and other, aspects of Schumann (and his works) Worthen tries hard, but in my view not always very convincing, to find reason's and excuses. And why? Even if he wrote some lesser works, even if he wasn't very social, he is still a great composer of eternally beautiful music.
Also, at some points there are some odd remaks in this book, e.g. when Clara had a miscarriage it is stated that she was not too sad about it (at this point I would have appreciated supporting documentation). Also, the statement that Schumann was the first composer to compose for his children struck me as strange: J.S. Bach e.g.Read more ›
Of course the tragedy of Schumann's life was his early infection with syphilis. He was never completely well after that and he was often very sick. In the end it took his mind and his life.
Nevertheless, he pursued his career in music with determination despite the want of adequate income and the early indifference of the public. And despite the arrival of so many children, Clara continued her appearances as a piano virtuoso. Among the most interesting episodes is their long, arduous trip to Russia where she gave a performance even for the Royal Family.
For the rest of this long biography I proceeded to do much skipping. The financial difficulties of the growing family, for instance, consume many pages that become tediously repetitive.
Moreover for a reader like myself, who knows nothing about music, there are a great many discussions of Schumann's works which I chose to avoid. Those who understand music, however, will no doubt relish those portions.
Especially interesting to me are the relationships between Schumann and various other leading composers such as Liszt and Wagner.
This biography generally flows easily and logically; I found virtually no place where one must pause to figure out what the author is saying.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The most enjoyable composer biography I've ever read. This book focuses on the human story; very little attention is paid to the music which is unfortunate for me as I love... Read morePublished on January 26, 2014 by MechPebbles
In this carefully researched biography Worthen has an overriding goal, namely to chronicle Schumann's life and work without the assumption that they were plagued by worsening... Read morePublished on August 25, 2013 by Matthews Stephen
Absolutely the most interesting bio I've read in a while. I was pleased to find that Mr Worthen had access to Schumann's diaries and put together so much information about Robert... Read morePublished on August 23, 2011 by dojo
John Worthen's book about Robert Schumann deserves to be called one of the best biographies that has ever been written in general, certainly the best on the this Romantic... Read morePublished on December 25, 2010 by Paul Gelman
This book is well researched & written. It is, as the title indicates, about the daily life of the great composer & his interactions with those around him. Read morePublished on April 25, 2010 by Dr. John E. Spivey
Worthen presents a very complete review of Schumann's life and character and his difficulties, both professionally - gaining recognition - and romantically. Read morePublished on June 20, 2009 by Kevin P. Lees