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Buy for $31.50
Drawing on previously unpublished sources, this groundbreaking biography of Robert Schumann sheds new light on the great composer’s life and work.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 19th-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 worshiped 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.
“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)