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Schumann

The Faces and the Masks
Length: 12 hrs and 53 mins
5 out of 5 stars (2 ratings)
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Publisher's Summary

A groundbreaking account of Robert Schumann, a major composer and key figure of Romanticism, whose life and works have been the subject of intense controversy since his early death in a mental asylum.

Schumann: The Faces and the Masks draws us into the milieu of the Romantic movement, which enraptured poets, musicians, painters, and their audiences in the early 19th century and beyond, even to the present day. It reveals how Schumann (1810-1856) embodied all the contrasting themes of Romanticism - he was intensely original and imaginative but also worshipped the past; he believed in political, personal, and artistic freedom but insisted on the need for artistic form based on the masters: Bach, Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. It details his deep involvement with other composers of his time, such as Chopin and Mendelssohn, Liszt and Brahms, as well as the literary lights of the age - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Heinrich Heine, E.T.A. Hoffmann - whose works gave inspiration to his compositions and words to his songs.

Drawing on hitherto unpublished archive material, as well more established sources of journals, letters, and publications, Judith Chernaik provides enthralling new insight into Schumann's life and his music: his sexual escapades, his fathering of an illegitimate child, the facts behind his courtship of Clara Wieck - already a noted young concert pianist - his passionate marriage to her despite the opposition of her manipulative father, his passionate marriage, and the ways his many crises fed into the dreams and fantasies of his greatest works, turning his tumultuous life into music that speaks directly to the heart.

©2018 Judith Chernaik (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“A generous and tremendously useful resource.... Without hitting you over the head, Chernaik allows you to feel the core of Schumann’s story. [She] gets the incredible essence of how he offloaded his difficult emotional world onto an imaginary band of alternative identities, partly for survival, partly to fight the philistine world on better terms.... Schumann’s spirit comes across as an antidote to all the hate and perverse self-love we are forced to swallow in public affairs, day after day.... If you take the time to read Chernaik’s new biography, your life outlook may improve.” (Jeremy Denk, The New York Times Book Review, front cover)

“This densely informative biography also provides a comprehensive listening guide to [Schumann’s] music.... 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, before a harrowing descent into madness.” (The New Yorker)

“Chernaik is an enthusiastic student of Schumann’s music and a fine chronicler of his turbulent life. Schumann: The Faces and the Masks is a well-proportioned, highly readable biography for general readers that establishes Schumann as a man thoroughly of his time. The book’s greatest contribution is to situate Schumann in a remarkable fraternity of 19th-century composers.” (Michael O’Donnell, The Wall Street Journal)

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