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Instant Judgement on Robert Schumann

Friday March 27th, sun surfacing through overcast, after a chilly night Reading Clio Grey, of whom more later, and The Iliad, where I've reached the Battle By The River, Hector hasn't got long left now. Watching a lot of movies as I've been feeling poorly, Mildred Pierce, Once Upon A Time In The West, The Fifth Element (again).

Improving my musical knowledge (down to Gabriel of course, he starts playing the music, I start wondering, what was that guy like? What did his life and times have to do with his composition?): this week's composer is Schumann. Reminds me of Bruce Sterling, a bit (sorry, Bruce, I know you're not mad). Esp. the selfless early career, putting passionate criticism and the Good Of The Genre before his own art, and not even realising it. The not-in-the-best-of-tempers manifestos against moribund convention, the revolutionary brotherhood of correct thought, to which you could get elected without your knowledge. Also the reckless mixing of media. Music written to illustrate details in a novel (Papillons) which of course everyone cool will get, because of course everyone cool knows the novel off by heart just like Robert does. I ended up not really liking most of what we have on CD, because it's too puzzling, too literary, and I haven't any desire to read the Wertheroid novels. They've vanished, and I bet it's with good reason.

The story about disabling his hand is less extreme than I thought, in fact my arbitrarily chosen biographer gave the distinct impression that it was a good excuse to stay out of the virtuoso bloodbath. Shame about the story of that ultra-romantic marriage, it really doesn't stand up. Oh Clara, you are my equal in all things, we are twin souls, we are beyond convention! Ah, at last you are mine! No, you can't go on tour. Didn't I say I need you to stay at home and bring up twenty kids. . ? He wrecked her career for as long as he was able (an uphill job, as Clara Wiek was incredibly talented, ditto hardworking, already famous & knew how to work a crowd), and though she submitted, though she became the fierce champion of his faltering genius, picking fights left right and centre, I don't think she forgave him. Not until he was safely on the way out. . . She didn't visit him much in that horrible aslyum. Where he certainly didn't deserve to end up, whatever it was that was wrong with him. All right, he jumped in the river, okay he'd been admitting to psychotic symptoms, but all the heroes of those turgid novels "admit" to psychotic symptoms, they never stop: how can your soul be in torment without a few waking nightmares?, it's de rigeur And in the end, when nobody would listen, he starved himself to death. Nasty way to go.

NB, my research for this entry, such as it was, involved reading Robert Schumann his life and work by Ronald Taylor, probably not the best place to start, a pedestrian biography and not great on musical analysis; but it was in the library! And listening to these two disks. Richter is as a God, I am reliably told, but I like Jonathan Biss.

Richter, playing Schubert's Wanderer and Schumann Papillons & Fantasie 17

Jonathan Biss, Fantasie 17 etc

He championed Chopin, when nobody understood what Chopin really was (cannons disguised by flowers is a Schumann quote), he railed against mediocrity, he had his faults but he was okay. I ought to listen to more, esp. the songs, and Kindersznesen (not for children; about being a child). Next in this series, Shostakovich: closet dissident or pillar of Stalinism?

Really, I'm practising having categories, after all these years: see if I can be a proper blogger.

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