Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/416

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��time Schumann was supposed to have attributed to Brahms, as he did to the poetess Elisabeth Kulmann, gifts which he did not actually possess. Twenty-eight years have passed and we now know that Schumann's keen insight did not deceive him, and that Brahms has verified all the expecta- tions formed of him. His intercourse with the young composer (then 20 years old), in whom he took the widest and most affectionate interest, was a great pleasure to Schumann.

At that time too Albert Dietrich (now Hof- capellmeister at Oldenburg) was staying in Diis- seldorf, and Schumann proved to the utmost the truth of what he had written only a few months previously of Kirchner, that he loved to follow the progress of young men. A sonata for piano- forte and violin exists in MS. which Schu- mann composed during this month (October 1853), in conjunction with Brahms and Dietrich. Dietrich begins with an allegro in A minor ; Schumann follows with an intermezzo in F major ; Brahms who signs himself Johannes Kreissler junior adds an allegro in C minor ; and Schu- mann winds up the work with a finale in A minor, ending in A major. The title of the sonata is worth noting. Joachim was coming to Diisseldorf to play at the concert of Oct. 27, so Schumann wrote on the title-page 'In an- ticipation of the arrival of our beloved and honoured friend Joseph Joachim, this sonata was written by Robert Schumann, Albert Die- trich, and Johannes Brahms.' *

This interesting intimacy cannot have con- tinued long, since in November Schumann went to Holland with his wife, and did not return till Dec. 22. But he met Brahms again in Hanover in January 1854, a * a performance of 'Paradise and the Peri,' where he found also Joachim and Julius Otto Grimm (now musical director at Miinster). A circle of gifted and devoted young artists gathered round the master and rejoiced in having him among them, little imagining that within a few months he would be suddenly snatched from them for ever.

^ Schumann's appearance was that of a man with a good constitution ; his figure was above the middle height, full and well-built ; but his nervous system had always shown extreme ex- citability, and even so early as his twenty-fourth year he suffered from a nervous disorder which increased to serious disease. At a still earlier date he had shown a certain morbid hypertension of feeling, in connection with his passionate study of Jean Paul, of whom he wrote, even in his i8th year, that he often drove him to the verge of mad- ness. Violent shocks of emotion, as for instance the sudden announcement of a death, or the struggle for the hand of Clara Wieck, would bring him into a condition of mortal anguish, and the most terrible state of bewilderment and helplessness, followed by days of overwhelming melancholy. A predisposition to worry himself, an ' ingenuity in clinging to unhappy ideas,' often embittered the fairest moments of his life, Gloomy antici-

l The MS. It in Joa:him's possession.

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pations darkened his soul ; 'I often feel as if I should not live much longer,' he says in a letter to Zuccalmaglio of May 18, 1837, 'and I should like to do a little more work ' ; and later, to Hiller 'man must work while it is yet day.' The vigour of youth for a time conquered these melancholy aberrations, and after his marriage the calm and equable happiness which he found in his wife for a long time expelled the evil spirit. It was not till 1844 that he again fell a prey to serious nervous tension. This was evidently the result of undue mental strain, and for a time he was forced to give up all work, and even the hearing of music, and to with- draw into perfect solitude at Dresden. His im- provement was slow and not without relapses ; but in 1849 he felt quite re-established, as we gather from his letters and from the work he accomplished; and his condition seems to have remained satisfactory till about the end of 1851. Then the symptoms of disease reappeared; he had, as usual, been again working without pause or respite, and even with increased severity ; and was himself so much alarmed as to seek a remedy. Various eccentricities of conduct be- trayed even to strangers the state of nervous ex- citability in which he was. By degrees delusions grew upon him, and he fancied that he incessantly heard one particular note, or certain harmonies, or voices whispering words of reproof or en- couragement. Once in the night he fancied that the spirits of Schubert and Mendelssohn brought him a musical theme, and he got up and noted it down. He was again attacked by that ' mortal anguish of mind ' of which he had had former ex- perience, and which left him perfectly distracted. Still, all these symptoms were but temporary, and between the attacks Schumann was in full possession of his senses and self-control. Hehimself expressed a wish to be placed in an asylum, but meanwhile worked on in his old way. He wrote some variations for the piano on the theme re- vealed to him by Schubert and Mendelssohn, but they were his last work, and remained un- finished. On Feb. 27, 1854, ^ n *ke afternoon, in one of his fits of agony of mind, he left the house unobserved and threw himself from the bridge into the Rhine. Some boatmen were on the watch and rescued him, and he was recognised and carried home. Unmistakeable symptoms of insanity now declared themselves, but after a few days a peculiar clearness and calmness of mind returned, and with it his irrepressible love of work. He completed the variation on which he had been at work before the great catastrophe. These last efforts of his wearied genius remain unpublished, but Brahms has used the theme for a set of 4-hand variations which form one of his most beautiful and touching works (op. 23), and which he has dedicated to Schumann s daughter Julie.

The last two years of Schumann's life were spent in the private asylum of Dr. Richarz at Endenich near Bonn. His mental disorder de- veloped into deep melancholy ; at times as in the spring of 1855 when for a while he seemed

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