Judith Chernaik on Schumann

Judith Chernaik on Schumann

25th September 2018

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Judith Chernaik discusses her new book SCHUMANN: THE FACES & THE MASKS accompanied by music from the APOLLO CHAMBER ENSEMBLE.

SCHUMANN: THE FACES & 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 poets and novelists, musicians and painters, and reaching to the furthest corners of the world.

All the contradictions of his age enter Schumann’s works. He was intensely original, but he worshipped the past—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, from the fantastic disguises of his carnival masquerades, the passionate love songs of his youth and his exquisite late romances and fairy tales to his four great symphonies. His music has lost none of its power with the passage of time.

Drawing on hitherto unpublished archive material, Judith Chernaik sheds new light on Schumann’s early sexual escapades, his fathering of an illegitimate child, the true facts behind his courtship of the young Clara Wieck and the opposition of her monstrous father, his battles with recurrent illness and melancholia, and his troubled relationship with his admired friend and rival Felix Mendelssohn.

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.