Robert Schumann was born in the provincial Saxon town Zwickau on June 8, 1810, in the family of a publisher and bookseller August Schumann. Schumann's father conveyed a reverent attitude to art and literature to his son; he did not impede his musical studies. Robert took classes from the local organist Johann Kuntzsch.
From the early age, Schumann was fascinated by improvising on the piano. His composing skills were manifested at the age of 13. He wrote a psalm for choir and orchestra. Young Robert was a romantic person by nature, and he was not at all interested in law that he studied at the universities of Leipzig and Heidelberg in 1828-1830s.
The studies with well-known piano teacher Friedrich Wieck, the concerts in Leipzig that he attended, knowledge of Franz Schubert’s musical compositions boosted his decision to devote his life to music. Having overcame resistance of his relatives, Schumann proceeded taking to piano lessons. However, the medical problem with his right hand (due to the exhaustible mechanical training of the fingers) stopped his pianistic career and Schumann enthusiastically devoted himself to composing, studied under the German composer and conductor G. Dorn from Königsberg, simultaneously studying compositions by Johann S. Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven. The young author composing independence was noticeable in his first published piano works. (Variations on the theme of Abegg, "Butterflies," in 1830-1831).
By the spring of 1834, Schumann became the editor and then the publisher of the "New Musical Magazine” (Neue Zeitschrift für Musik). He defined his goal as a war against the sketchy works of virtuoso composers that were popular at that time, who sketchy mirrored the classical composers, for new, profound art, illuminated by poetic inspiration. Schumann presented the iconic art in his articles, often written in the form of scenes, dialogues and aphorisms. He saw the ideal in compositions by Franz Schubert and Felix Mendelssohn, Frederic Chopin and Hector Berlioz, in the music of Viennese classics, in creative activity of Nicollo Paganini and young pianist Clara Wieck, the daughter of his teacher. Schumann managed to gather like-minded people around him.
The second half of the 1830s brought Schumann the highest tension of his mental power and rise of his creative genius - Fantasiestücke (Fancy pieces), Fantasia in C major, Kreicleriana, Humoreske, Novelletten (Novelettes), Davidsbündlertänze (Dances of the David League), Faschingsschwank aus Wien (Carnival in Vienna). This period of his life the composer competed for the right to unite with Clara Wieck (Friedrich Wieck - Clara's father, prevented this marriage in every way). Schumann spent the season of 1838-1839 in Vienna in order to bolster his musical and journalistic activities, however, the Metternich administration and censorship prevented the magazine publication.
The 1840th became a year of the long-waited union with Clara and their marriage; it became a year of songs for Schumann. Extraordinary sensitivity to poetry, deep knowledge of his contemporaries’ creative work, helped the composer to embody precise junction of individual poetic intonation of the poetry by G. Heine, I. Eichendorff, A. Chamisso, R. Burns, F. Ruckert, J. Byron, G. X. Andersen and others in his numerous song cycles. The list of vocal pieces was replenished with wonderful works later.
Personal life and creative work of Schumann in the 1840-50s proceeded in the alternation of peaks and troughs largely associated with bouts of mental disorder, the first signs of which appeared in 1833. Early 1840s were marked by the rise of creative vitality. The end of the Dresden period (the Schumann family lived in the capital of Saxony in 1845-1850) coincided with the revolutionary events in Europe. In 1850, the family moved to Dusseldorf. Schumann composed a lot, worked as a tutor at the Leipzig Conservatory, which was opened in 1843, began to perform as a conductor. In Dresden and Düsseldorf, he leaded the choirs and devoted himself to this work with enthusiasm. Among rather few touring trips carried out with Clara, the longest and most spectacular for Schuman was his voyage to Russia in 1844. Since the early 1860-1870s, the Schumann’s music had become the integral part of the Russian musical culture. It was highly appreciated by the Russian composers - Mikhail Balakirev, Modest Mussorgsky, Andrei Borodin, and especially by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, who considered Schumann the most outstanding composer of that period. The brilliant performer of Schumann's piano works was pianist Anton Rubinstein.
The composer’s creative work of the 1840-1850s was marked by significant widening genres variety. Schumann wrote symphonies (the Symphony No. 1, also known as the Spring Symphony in 1841; the Symphony No. 2 in 1845-1846; the Symphony No. 3 – the Rhenish in 1850; the Symphony No. 4 - the 1st edition in 1841, the 2nd j one – in 1851, chamber ensembles (three string quartets in 1842; three trios; piano Quartet and Quintet; ensembles with clarinet part – Fancy Pieces (Fantasiestücke) for clarinet, viola and piano and others; concerts for piano in 1841-45, concert for cello in 1850; concert for violin in 1853; program concert overtures (The Bride of Messina by Schiller in 1851; Herman and Dorothea by Goethe; Julius Caesar by Shakespeare in 1851, demonstrating his mastery in classic forms. The Piano Concert and the Fourth Symphony are distinguished by boldness, exclusive harmony of personification and inspiration of musical ideas. Music to the dramatic poem Manfred (1848) by George Gordon Byron became the highlight of the composer’s creativity. It can be called the most important milestone in the development of romantic symphonism on the way from Beethoven to Liszt, Tchaikovsky, and Brahms. Schumann did not stop creating his favourite piano compositions (Op. 82, Waldszenen (Forest Scenes and other music pieces). The composer's search for vocal and dramatic music was relentless (oratorio Paradise and the Peri (Op. 50, Das Paradies und die Peri), based on Lalla-Rookh by Thomas Moore, 1843; Scenes from Faust by Goethe, 1844-1853; ballads for soloists, choir and orchestra; church music, etc. The staging in Leipzig of the Schumann only one four-act opera - “Genoveva” (1847-1848) —based the plays by Ludwig Tieck and Christian Friedrich Hebbel, unfortunately, did not bring the success to the composer.
Schumann always treated young talented composers with extraordinary delicacy. His meeting with twenty-year-old Johannes Brahms was a significant event in the latest years of his life. The article "Neue Bahnen" ("New Paths") in which Schumann predicted a great future to his spiritual heir finalized his journalistic activities. In February 1854, an episode of Schumann's mental disorder led him to the attempted suicide that made him jump in the Rhein. He was saved, but he spend insane asylum and died at the age of 46.
Schumann's creative legacy marked the mature stage of musical romanticism with its keen attention to the embodiment of complex psychological processes of human life. His piano and vocal cycles, many of the chamber-instrumental and symphonic works opened a new artistic world and new forms of musical expression. Schumann's music can be visualized as a sequence of surprisingly spacious musical moments that capture the variable and very subtly nuanced state of mind of a human being. It could be musical portraits accurately apprehending the superficial features and the inner essence of the depicted character or phenomenon.
International contest musicians performing academic music is named after Schumann. For the first time it was held in Berlin in 1956. Robert Schumann Music premium was established by the Zwickau mairie. The honouring of the laureates – music experts, conductors and musicians that contributed to the popularization of Schumann’s works are among them, is traditionally held on June 8 - the day of the composer's birth.