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Schumann: The Faces and the Masks

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Schumann: The Faces and the Masks is a groundbreaking account of a major composer whose life and works have been the subject of intense controversy ever since his attempted suicide and early death in an insane asylum. Schumann was a key figure in the Romanticism which swept Europe and America in the 19th century, inspiring writers, musicians and painters, delighting their Schumann: The Faces and the Masks is a groundbreaking account of a major composer whose life and works have been the subject of intense controversy ever since his attempted suicide and early death in an insane asylum. Schumann was a key figure in the Romanticism which swept Europe and America in the 19th century, inspiring writers, musicians and painters, delighting their enthralled audiences, and reaching to the furthest corners of the world. All the contradictions of his age enter Schumann's works, from the fantastic disguises of his carnival masquerades and his passionate love songs to his great 'Spring' and 'Rhenish' Symphonies. He was intensely original and imaginative, but he also worshipped the past-especially Shakespeare and Byron, Raphael and Michelangelo, Beethoven and Bach. He believed in political, personal and artistic freedom but struggled with the constraints of artistic form. He turned his tumultuous life into music that speaks directly to the heart, losing none of its power with the passage of time. Drawing on hitherto unpublished archive material, Chernaik sheds new light on Schumann's life and music, his sexual escapades, his fathering of an illegitimate child, the true facts behind his courtship of his wife Clara and the opposition of her monstrous father, and the ways in which the crises of his life, his dreams and fantasies, entered his music. Schumann's troubled relations with his fellow-Romantic composers Mendelssohn and Chopin are freshly explored, and the full medical diary kept at Endenich Asylum, long withheld, enables Chernaik to look again at the mystery of Schumann's final illness. Using her wide experience as a scholar of Romanticism and a novelist, Chernaik vividly brings Schumann's world and his extraordinary artistic achievement to life in all its rich complexity.


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Schumann: The Faces and the Masks is a groundbreaking account of a major composer whose life and works have been the subject of intense controversy ever since his attempted suicide and early death in an insane asylum. Schumann was a key figure in the Romanticism which swept Europe and America in the 19th century, inspiring writers, musicians and painters, delighting their Schumann: The Faces and the Masks is a groundbreaking account of a major composer whose life and works have been the subject of intense controversy ever since his attempted suicide and early death in an insane asylum. Schumann was a key figure in the Romanticism which swept Europe and America in the 19th century, inspiring writers, musicians and painters, delighting their enthralled audiences, and reaching to the furthest corners of the world. All the contradictions of his age enter Schumann's works, from the fantastic disguises of his carnival masquerades and his passionate love songs to his great 'Spring' and 'Rhenish' Symphonies. He was intensely original and imaginative, but he also worshipped the past-especially Shakespeare and Byron, Raphael and Michelangelo, Beethoven and Bach. He believed in political, personal and artistic freedom but struggled with the constraints of artistic form. He turned his tumultuous life into music that speaks directly to the heart, losing none of its power with the passage of time. Drawing on hitherto unpublished archive material, Chernaik sheds new light on Schumann's life and music, his sexual escapades, his fathering of an illegitimate child, the true facts behind his courtship of his wife Clara and the opposition of her monstrous father, and the ways in which the crises of his life, his dreams and fantasies, entered his music. Schumann's troubled relations with his fellow-Romantic composers Mendelssohn and Chopin are freshly explored, and the full medical diary kept at Endenich Asylum, long withheld, enables Chernaik to look again at the mystery of Schumann's final illness. Using her wide experience as a scholar of Romanticism and a novelist, Chernaik vividly brings Schumann's world and his extraordinary artistic achievement to life in all its rich complexity.

30 review for Schumann: The Faces and the Masks

  1. 4 out of 5

    George1st

    This absorbing and scholarly biography not only provides the factual narrative of Schumann's life but also a detailed analysis of his wok that ranged from solo piano compositions through to symphonies and even an opera. He is personified as one of the greatest composers of the Romantic era for which music in particular dominated the Romantic movement in Germany. The book gives a vivid picture of the social and cultural period of the time and how he was influenced by reading the works of the grea This absorbing and scholarly biography not only provides the factual narrative of Schumann's life but also a detailed analysis of his wok that ranged from solo piano compositions through to symphonies and even an opera. He is personified as one of the greatest composers of the Romantic era for which music in particular dominated the Romantic movement in Germany. The book gives a vivid picture of the social and cultural period of the time and how he was influenced by reading the works of the great German poet-philosophers Schiller and Goethe as well as reading the likes of Byron and Shelly. Musically his great loves included past masters such as Bach, Beethoven and Schubert. We learn also of his relationships with his contemporary composers including Chopin, Liszt, Wagner, Brahms and above all Mendelssohn who's music he adored. But above all the book makes clear the overriding and fundamental importance that Clara Wieck (later Schumann) had on his life, music, and musical posterity from the time they first met when she was only eleven. She spent the rest of her life tirelessly promoting and later preserving his legacy. Without Clara it is unlikely that Schumann would have received his place in musical history. I must admit that my knowledge of musical composition is negligible but despite this Judith Chernaik takes the reader by the hand as she provides a critique and analysis of his work. Against the of background of political upheaval (that would lead to the revolutions of 1848 that were essentially democratic and liberal in nature leading to the overthrow of the old ancient regimes and the creation of new independent nation states) we learn how Schumann's works reflected this with all their dreams and fantasies. The final chapters regarding Schumann's incarceration and early death in an asylum are heartbreaking and difficult to read. Clearly much research has been undertaken and includes previously unpublished archive material and a wealth of known extracts from letters and journals. There is also an extensive bibliography and a note of performances available on the internet. Certainly if nothing else this has inspired me to seek out his music and hopefully to attend a live concert at sometime in the future. If you are already an aficionado or alternatively unfamiliar with his work or you just like reading a biography of a troubled life that left behind a volume of work that still captivates the heart then this could be interest.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ana Santo

    Robert Schumann, the Romantic composer, the lover, the writer, the man, the patient, had a fascinating life that deserves to be known and analysed by the daring and curious minds. With this book Judith Chernaik successfully present us with the narrative of Schumann’s life, smoothly intertwined with analyzes of his work. We are told what the composer was dealing with at the same time we were showed his pieces and the hidden secrets within them. This is not a quick read, at least for anyone who’s m Robert Schumann, the Romantic composer, the lover, the writer, the man, the patient, had a fascinating life that deserves to be known and analysed by the daring and curious minds. With this book Judith Chernaik successfully present us with the narrative of Schumann’s life, smoothly intertwined with analyzes of his work. We are told what the composer was dealing with at the same time we were showed his pieces and the hidden secrets within them. This is not a quick read, at least for anyone who’s musical knowledge is not as good as one would like it to be, but it is an enjoyable read that take us as close to Schumann’s mind as possible. We are taken by several aspects of the composers live and no stone is left untouched. From his affairs, his health problems, the courting of his future wife and the slow degradation of his mind we are taken on a journey through Schumann’s reality without taking any sides about his character. Slowly we peek behind the genie with his several masks to contemplate the man. Brilliantly written and smartly organised, this is a biography to have.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mandy

    This new biography of Robert Schumann is both illuminating and entertaining. Meticulously researched, it explores his life and music in great depth. A key figure in the Romantic movement, he was both an admired and influential composer, and his love for his wife Clara is surely one of the great love stories of the 19th century. Written in a lively and accessible style overall, I certainly found some of the sections dealing with the music somewhat over my head, but as these are separated from the This new biography of Robert Schumann is both illuminating and entertaining. Meticulously researched, it explores his life and music in great depth. A key figure in the Romantic movement, he was both an admired and influential composer, and his love for his wife Clara is surely one of the great love stories of the 19th century. Written in a lively and accessible style overall, I certainly found some of the sections dealing with the music somewhat over my head, but as these are separated from the main narrative it was easy to skip some of them when they became too complicated without losing the thread. This is a book for the serious musician and musicologist as well as the general reader, and one I recommend to anyone interested in his life and work.

  4. 5 out of 5

    January Gray

    As a lover of Classical music, I never knew the deep history of Schumann! I learned so much from this book! It is well written and not boring at all.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Faouzia

    I am usually not a fun of non-fictions or biographies, i am not a music expert either; but i do love music a lot and Schumann is among the composer i usually enjoy listening to. I was worried that i may find this account of his life and works somehow tedious or boring, i was forgetting that nothing about music could be boring. This, however, will be only the opinion of an amateur, someone who finds joy in listening to good pieces. First, what i liked most was the way the major compositions of Sch I am usually not a fun of non-fictions or biographies, i am not a music expert either; but i do love music a lot and Schumann is among the composer i usually enjoy listening to. I was worried that i may find this account of his life and works somehow tedious or boring, i was forgetting that nothing about music could be boring. This, however, will be only the opinion of an amateur, someone who finds joy in listening to good pieces. First, what i liked most was the way the major compositions of Schumann were explained, the author did really a good work, in my humble opinion, in making something rather complicated be understandable to non-professionals or expert. She certainly used the musical terminology (i mean, it would have been strange if she didn't), but in a way that was not overly intimidating. What helped me was listening to most of the pieces at the same time. This actually made reading the book more special. The life of Schumann was certainly interesting, and not until reading this book did i understand the extent of his wife's role in his life and career. Clara Schumann was an exceptional artist, she was also something like an anchor in Schumann's life as well as his "muse" and so many other things. That period was, for ma at least, something of a Golden age for Music; many great artists had a lot of impact on the works of Schumann, from the predecessors like Bach, Beethoven and Schubert, contemporaries like Mendelssohn, Chopin, Liszt; and those who came toward the end of his life. It was amazing reading about all those great composers/artists, learning also a bit more about them , it felt like i was invited to a private party of geniuses! I never thought that the music of Schumann was related that much to his love of literature, and on my own, i honestly think, i wouldn't be able to decipher the different influences, inspirations and mostly the reasons behind those pieces and What he intend to convey through them, so i am glad to learn a bit more about it. I can't pretend i became an expert of Schumann's music after reading this book, not even close! What remained after i closed the last page was more understanding to why the music of Schumann moves my heart when i listen to it, a bit of sadness also for the sort of tormented life he led and the end that came too soon for him, and more than anything more love for music. Thank you NetGalley, the Publisher and Author for this free copy in exchange of an honest review.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Helen

    A musician’s biography, with considerable space devoted to thoughtful analyses of Schumann’s compositions, but I would have liked more depiction of his personality. Chernaik satisfactorily refutes suggestions that Schumann died of anything other than tertiary syphilis or that Clara didn’t want to visit him after he entered the asylum, documenting his doctor’s holding out false hopes of his recovery to her until the very end. I would have liked an explanation as to why Schumann evidently didn’t t A musician’s biography, with considerable space devoted to thoughtful analyses of Schumann’s compositions, but I would have liked more depiction of his personality. Chernaik satisfactorily refutes suggestions that Schumann died of anything other than tertiary syphilis or that Clara didn’t want to visit him after he entered the asylum, documenting his doctor’s holding out false hopes of his recovery to her until the very end. I would have liked an explanation as to why Schumann evidently didn’t transmit his disease to his wife and had to do a bit of research on it myself after finishing the book to discover that by the time they were married it was far enough advanced that he evidently was no longer contagious, but I did wonder about their son Ferdinand, who also died in an asylum; might he have had congenital syphilis? Only a few more sentences would have sufficed to answer these questions, which to me seem obvious. I also wonder about how Schumann was as a father; how did he spend time with his children, and was he authoritarian? And how did Clara feel about having 15 thalers a week doled our to her as her allowance by her husband when it was she who had earned them? Disappointing as it was to read about their anti-Semitic comments about Mendelssohn, I would also have liked some follow up about that, especially when Schumann clearly was devastated at his early death. More about his relationship with Clara’s father, too, would have been nice; how, for example, did he react to Schumann’s illness and institutionalization?

  7. 4 out of 5

    Rod

    “Form and poetic feeling were his guiding principles, complementary and transformative, informing works that were driven always by his own powerful imagination.” Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. This is richly detailed and moving account of the music, life and loves of one of the great composers of the romantic era. Reading it inspires me to revisit many of his familiar works (the piano quintet, piano concerto, and especially the song cycles) and explore some unfamiliar ones as well such as the Ma “Form and poetic feeling were his guiding principles, complementary and transformative, informing works that were driven always by his own powerful imagination.” Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. This is richly detailed and moving account of the music, life and loves of one of the great composers of the romantic era. Reading it inspires me to revisit many of his familiar works (the piano quintet, piano concerto, and especially the song cycles) and explore some unfamiliar ones as well such as the Manfred Overture and Paradise and the Peri.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    I received my copy of this book through the publisher on NetGalley. I thought this was very well written and engaging throughout. The biographical account of Schumann's life is enhanced by Professor Chernaik with snippets of letters between Robert and Clara, and others, and with interesting discussions of Schumann's works. I have my own favorites by Schumann, but reading this got me interested in taking a closer look at some of his works that I haven't visited in a while. I'm very glad I read thi I received my copy of this book through the publisher on NetGalley. I thought this was very well written and engaging throughout. The biographical account of Schumann's life is enhanced by Professor Chernaik with snippets of letters between Robert and Clara, and others, and with interesting discussions of Schumann's works. I have my own favorites by Schumann, but reading this got me interested in taking a closer look at some of his works that I haven't visited in a while. I'm very glad I read this.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lester

    A fine biography for general readers and a great summation of the quintessential Romantic artist. Schumann was a genius, creative and a mentor to Brahms, Joachim and even Wagner, and he and Mendelssohn were close compatriots (until an unfortunate estrangement). The main story is the great romance and partnership between Schumann and his amazing wife Clara, another towering musical figure. Very little analysis of his works, but that isn’t the author’s goal. I recommend this highly.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    A composer's biography should make you want to listen to that composer's music, which this books does, assuming you're already at least a little interested in Schumann (and if you aren't why would you read his biography?).

  11. 4 out of 5

    Brenda Schneider

    A very well written and wonderful biography. Really enjoyed. I won this book through goodreads.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Stilson

    Couldn’t get interested in this at all and don’t feel it’s well written

  13. 5 out of 5

    Todd

  14. 4 out of 5

    John

  15. 5 out of 5

    Herschel V Beazley Jr

  16. 4 out of 5

    Yvonne

  17. 4 out of 5

    A G Boyle

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jaime

  19. 5 out of 5

    Derwood

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tim

  21. 4 out of 5

    W. A. Billingham

  22. 5 out of 5

    Megan

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ben Molloy

  24. 4 out of 5

    Stuart C

  25. 4 out of 5

    John Munro

  26. 5 out of 5

    Steve Krause

  27. 5 out of 5

    Maria

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kris

  29. 5 out of 5

    March

  30. 5 out of 5

    Angie

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