Drawing on previously unpublished sources, this groundbreaking biography of Robert Schumann sheds new light on the great composer’s life and work. With the rigorous research of a scholar and the eloquent prose of a novelist, Judith Chernaik takes us into Schumann’s nineteenth-century Romantic milieu, where he wore many “masks” that gave voice to each corner of his soul. The son of a book publisher, he infused his pieces with literary ideas. He was passionately original but worshipped the past: Bach and Beethoven, Shakespeare and Byron. He believed in artistic freedom but struggled with constraints of form. His courtship and marriage to the brilliant pianist Clara Wieck—against her father’s wishes—is one of the great musical love stories of all time. Chernaik freshly explores his troubled relations with fellow composers Mendelssohn and Chopin, and the full medical diary—long withheld—from the Endenich asylum where he spent his final years enables her to look anew at the mystery of his early death. By turns tragic and transcendent, Schumann shows how this extraordinary artist turned his tumultuous life into music that speaks directly—and timelessly—to the heart.
About the Author
Judith Chernaik was born and grew up in Brooklyn. She graduated from Cornell University and received a Ph.D. from Yale University. She has taught at Columbia, Tufts, and Queen Mary College in London. Her books include The Lyrics of Shelley and four novels. She has also written a play, and most recently has published essays on Robert Schumann, Clara Schumann, Mendelssohn, and Chopin in the British academic journal The Musical Times.
She and her husband, Warren Chernaik, have been living in London for the last forty years, where she founded Poems on the Underground, which under various names, has since spread all over the world.
“A generous and tremendously useful resource. . . . Chernaik allows you to feel the core of Schumann’s story.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Densely informative. . . . For Chernaik, the music illuminates the story of a man with ‘more feeling than judgment,’ who emerged as one of the most influential Romantic composers.” —The New Yorker
“A well-proportioned, highly readable biography. . . . Chernaik is . . . a fine chronicler of his turbulent life.” —The Wall Street Journal
“A tale as gripping as any thriller.” —Pianist
A deeply moving read. . . . Eloquent. . . . Schumann’s personality emerges vividly.” —BBC Magazine
“[Schumann] was an artist of great humanity, a humanity that shines through his musical legacy along with that of his wife, Clara, a brilliant pianist and gifted composer in her own right. Now they have both found a modern biographer, Judith Chernaik, who does them justice with grace and insight.” —The Washington Times
“Heartbreaking. . . Chernaik tells Schumann’s story in a book full of fresh, thoughtful writing.” —The Sunday Times (London)
“[An] affecting and moving biography . . . [Chernaik] pays close attention to the music and summons its inimitable combination of romantic ardour, eccentricity and classical craftsmanship in deft prose.” —The Daily Telegraph (London)
“A tremendously persuasive portrait. . . . Feature[s] some of the most passionate appreciations of Schumann’s music ever written in English.” —Open Letters Review
“Engrossing. . . . A most touching and moving story, beautifully told by Judith Chernaik.” —Daily Mail
“Superb. . . . A vivid, sympathetic portrait. . . . This is the most readable and penetrating biography of this wonderful composer whose life touches modern sensibilities at so many points.” —Stephen Walsh, The Oldie
“Enthralling . . . Beautifully written, excellently researched, and shot through with love and understanding of her subject.” —Musical Opinion
“Altogether outstanding. . . . [Schumann’s] story is oft-told, but Chernaik’s version eclipses its predecessors.” —Booklist (starred review)
“Fast-paced and informative, this biography wonderfully explores the life of a great and troubled composer.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Inspiring and wrenching. . . . A guided tour through the life and work of Robert Schumann, a musical genius who viewed the sublime.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred)