Robert Schumann

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Robert Schumann (1810-1856)

German composer (b. 8 June 1810 [N.S.] at Zwickau, Saxony; d. 29 July 1856 [N.S.] in Bonn), born Robert Alexander Schumann.

Tchaikovsky and Schumann

Schumann was one of Tchaikovsky's favourite composers and exerted a very strong influence on his own music. Herman Laroche recalled in the Foreword to his 1898 edition of Tchaikovsky's feuilleton articles how as first-year Conservatory students in 1862 they had played through piano duet arrangements of Schumann's symphonies and overtures, as well as of the opera Genoveva and the oratorio Das Paradies und die Peri (Op. 50). In 1864 Anton Rubinstein, like his brother Nikolay a fervent admirer of Schumann, set Tchaikovsky the task of orchestrating some variations from the Symphonische Etuden for piano (Op. 13), which resulted in the Symphonic Studies. It was also as a student at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory that Tchaikovsky caught a glimpse of Clara Schumann, when, during her tour of Russia in 1864, she visited the Conservatory and attended a musical soirée at which Tchaikovsky and other fellow students performed Friedrich Kuhlau's Quartet for Four Flutes [1]. Unfortunately, it is not known whether Tchaikovsky was actually introduced to the great composer's widow.

While staying at the Davydovs' dacha near Peterhof in the summer of 1866, where he worked on his First Symphony, Tchaikovsky in the evenings would often play through works by Schumann on the piano. As the composer's brother Modest later recalled: "The most pleasant moments of the whole day for me and for Vera Vasilyevna Davydova, whose musical enlightener he continued to be, were when he sat down at the piano in the evenings and played for us almost invariably one of Schumann's symphonies (the first and fourth), or the same composer's Das Paradies und die Peri, or Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony. He was especially thrilled by Das Paradies und die Peri (only the first part): each time he played it he would express his delight and demand that we pay particular attention when the moment of the young hero's appearance before the grim tyrant came, and he would play with great emotion the chorus of angels singing the glory of the young martyr — he said that he knew nothing higher than this in all music. Despite being quite fickle in his musical predilections, so that very often he would start criticizing what not so long ago he had been enthusiastic about, he remained faithful to Das Paradies und die Peri until the end of his life, just as he was faithful to Don Giovanni, A Life for the Tsar, and Der Freischütz" [2].

Significantly, at the start of his own career as a composer, Tchaikovsky translated into Russian Schumann's famous Musikalische Haus- und Lebensregeln which emphasize the commitment, modesty, and earnestness required by the musician's calling. Tchaikovsky's translation was published in 1868 as Rulebook for Young Musicians [Жизненные правила для молодых музыкантов], TH 331.

In his music review articles during the 1870s, Tchaikovsky frequently had the opportunity to discuss Schumann's works and his overall significance — the most important references have been listed below. Whilst praising the warmth and passion of Schumann's symphonies, Tchaikovsky nevertheless criticized their orchestration, and in a conversation with his friend Ivan Klimenko around 1870-71 he confessed that "for a long time he had been cherishing the idea of orchestrating afresh all four of Schumann's symphonies" [3].

In 1878, Tchaikovsky decided to compose a Children's Album of simple piano pieces for children inspired by the example of Schumann's Kinderszenen (Op. 15) [4]. Such was his admiration for the great Romantic composer that in 1882 he hesitated to take up Balakirev's suggestion of writing a Manfred symphony partly because Schumann's Manfred overture was so strongly embedded in his mind. In the last year of his life, when he received an invitation to conduct some concerts in Saint Petersburg, Tchaikovsky wanted to dedicate a whole concert to Schumann's Das Paradies und die Peri, which in his diary he once described as "a divine work" [5].

In his obituary of Tchaikovsky the music critic Josef Sittard, who had spent a lot of time with the composer during his various visits to Hamburg from 1888 to 1893, recounted the following anecdote which testifies to the great esteem in which Tchaikovsky held Schumann:

I have rarely met an artist of such kindness of heart, personal selflessness, and genuine, unfeigned modesty [as Tchaikovsky]. How attractively he could chat about art and artists, and even if the conversation sometimes turned on artists and artistic tendencies which he found unsympathetic, his judgements were never harsh or unjust. Only once did I see him become angry. A young conductor who had attained quick renown and who swore only by the trinity of Berlioz, Liszt, and Wagner, had permitted himself to make an unjustifiable observation about Schumann's artistic oeuvre. Tchaikovsky got up agitatedly and told the young hothead: 'As a Russian I am ashamed to see a German musician daring to insult the memory of one of Germany's greatest composers'. Thereupon he left the room [6].

Arrangements by Tchaikovsky

  • Symphonic Studies (1864) — arrangement for orchestra of two variations from Schumann's Etudes symphoniques for piano solo, Op. 13 (1852)
  • Ballade vom Haideknaben (1874) — arrangement for orchestra of Schumann's declamation for narrator with piano, Op. 122, No. 1 (1852)

Translations by Tchaikovsky

  • Rulebook for Young Musicians (1868) — a translation from German to Russian of the Musikalische Haus- und Lebensregeln für junge Musiker (1849)
  • Notes to the "Studies", Op. 3 (1869) — a translation from German to Russian of Schumann's preface to his Six Studies on Caprices by Paganini, Op. 3 (1832)

General Reflections on Schumann

Bold references indicate particularly detailed or interesting references.

In Tchaikovsky's Music Review Articles

  • TH 261 — Tchaikovsky asserts that the second half of the 19th century would go down into music history as the "Schumannesque period", and observes how Schumann's music tells us of "the mysteriously deep processes of our spiritual life" and of "the moments of doubt and despair" which beset man in his "striving for the ideal".
  • TH 268 — discusses Schumann as a critic and his discovery of Brahms.
  • TH 269 — discusses certain flaws in Schumann's symphonic works, especially his inadequate orchestration.
  • TH 297 — criticizes Schumann's "thick and massive instrumentation"; emphasizes that his natural medium was always the piano.
  • TH 306 — emphasizes again that Schumann was above all a composer for the piano
  • TH 316 — during Tchaikovsky's concert tour stop in Leipzig, in January 1888, Carl Reinecke shares with him recollections of Schumann.

Views on Specific Works by Schumann

Bold references indicate particularly detailed or interesting references.

In Tchaikovsky's Music Review Articles

  • Cello Concerto in A minor, Op. 129 (1850) — see TH 274, TH 286
  • Die Davidsbündler, for piano solo, Op. 6 (1851) — see TH 303
  • Fantasiestücke, for piano solo Op. 12 (1837) — see TH 261
  • Genoveva, opera, Op. 81 (1847–48) — see TH 268
  • Humoresque in B-flat major, for piano solo, Op. 20 (1838–39) — see TH 276
  • Manfred, dramatic poem, Op. 115 (1848–49) — see TH 269
  • Overture, Scherzo and Finale, for orchestra, Op. 52 (1841) — see TH 287
  • Piano Quintet in E-flat major, Op. 44 (1842) — see TH 306
  • String Quartet in A major, Op. 41, No. 3 (1842) — see TH 294, TH 313
  • Symphony No. 1 in B-flat major, "Spring", Op. 38 (1841) — see TH 297
  • Symphony No. 2 in C major, Op. 61 (1845–46) — see TH 284
  • Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major, "Rhenish", Op. 97 (1850) — see TH 269
  • Symphony No. 4 in D minor, Op. 120 (1841) — see TH 312
  • Toccata in C major, for piano solo, Op. 7 (1829–33) — see TH 303


External Links

Notes and References

  1. See Из моих воспоминаний. Чайковский в консерваторий (1897), included in Воспоминания о П. И. Чайковском (1980), p. 53. While at the Conservatory, Tchaikovsky studied the flute with the famous flutist Cesare Ciardi (1818-1877) and became sufficiently accomplished on this instrument to be able to take part in student concerts.
  2. Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 1 (1997), p. 229–230.
  3. As Ivan Klimenko recalled in a letter of 26 December 1894/7 January 1895 which he sent to the journal Russian Register (Русские ведомости). This letter was not published but it has been preserved in Nikolay Kashkin's archive at the Tchaikovsky House-Museum in Klin. Quoted in Дни и годы П. И. Чайковского. Летопись жизни и творчества (1940), p. 73.
  4. See Letter 820 to Nadezhda von Meck, 30 April/12 May 1878.
  5. See the diary entry for 10/22 September 1887 in The Diaries of Tchaikovsky (1973), p. 212.
  6. Josef Sittard's interesting obituary of Tchaikovsky in the 7 November 1893 [N.S.] issue of the Hamburgischer Correspondent is reprinted in Tschaikowsky in Hamburg. Eine Dokumentation (2006), p. 150.