Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/398

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��umnistakeable. Schumann himself tells us how once, as a child, at midnight, when all the house- hold were asleep, he had in a dream and with his eyes closed, stolen down to the old piano, and played a series of chords, weeping bitterly the while. So early did he betray that tendency to overstrung emotion which found its most powerful nourishment in Jean Paul's writings.

Music, however, is a social art, and it soon brought him back again to human life. In the house of Professor * Carus he made several inter- esting acquaintances, especially that of Marschner, who was then living in Leipzig, and had brought out his 'Vampyr' there in the spring of 1828. His first meeting with Wieck, the father of his future wife, took place in the same year; and Schumann took several pianoforte lessons from him. Several music-loving students met together there, and all kinds of chamber-music were prac- tised. They devoted themselves with especial ardour to the works of Schubert, whose death on Nov. 19, 1828, was deeply felt by Schumann. Impelled by Schubert's example, he wrote at this time 8 Polonaises for four hands ; also a Quartet for piano and strings, and a number of songs to Byron's words; all of which remain unpublished. Besides these occupations, he made a more inti- mate acquaintance with the clavier works of Sebastian Bach. It is almost self-evident that what chiefly fascinated Schumann in Bach's com- positions was the mysterious depth of sentiment revealed in them. Were it not so, it would be impossible to conceive of Bach in connection with the chaotic Jean Paul; and yet Schumann himself says that in early life Bach and Jean Paul had exercised the most powerful influence upon him. Considering the way in which his musical educa- tion had been left to itself, the fact of his so thoroughly appreciating the wealth and fulness of life in Bach's compositions at a time when Bach was looked upon only as a great contrapuntist, is clear evidence of the greatness of his own genius; which indeed had some affinity with that of Bach. The ingenuity of outward form in Bach's works was neither strange nor unintelligible to him. For although Schumann had hitherto had no instructor in composition, it need scarcely be said that he had long ago made himself familiar with the most essential parts of the composer's art, and that constant practice in composition must have given him much knowledge and skill in this branch of his art.

At Easter, 1829, Schumann followed his friend Rosen to the university of Heidelberg. The young jurists were perhaps tempted thither by the lectures of the famous teacher, A. F. J. Thibaut; but it is evident that other things contributed to form Schumann's resolution : the situation of the town a perfect Paradise the gaiety of the people, and the nearness of Switzer- land, Italy and France. A delightful prospect promised to open to him there: 'That will be life indeed!' he writes to his friend; 'at Mi- chaelmas we will go to Switzerland, and from

i 'Patientibus Cams, ted clarus inter dodos.' (Berlioz. Voyage Musical. Letter IV.)


thence who knows where?' On his journey to Heidelberg chance threw him into the society of Willibald Alexis. As they found pleasure in each other's company, Schumann incontinently turned out of his way and went with the poet some distance down the Rhine. Like Marsch- ner, who indeed was somewhat their senior, Alexis had trodden the path which Schumann was destined to follow, and had reached art by way of the law. No doubt this added to Schu- mann's interest in the acquaintance. It cannot be denied that even in Heidelberg Schumann carried on his legal studies in a very desultory manner, though Thibaut himself was a living proof that that branch of learning could co-exist with a true love and comprehension of music. Only a few years before (in 1825) Thibaut had published his little book, 'Ueber Reinheit der Tonkunst ' (On Purity in Musical Art), a work which at that time essentially contributed to alter the direction of musical taste in Germany. Just as in his volume Thibaut attacks the de- generate state of church music, Schumann, at a later date, was destined to take up arms, in word and deed, against the flat insipidity of concert and chamber music. Nevertheless the two men never became really intimate ; in one, no doubt, the doctor too greatly preponderated, and in the other the artist. Thibaut himself subsequently advised Schumann to abandon the law and devote himself entirely to music.

Indeed if Schumann was industrious in any- thing at Heidelberg it was in pianoforte-playing. After practising for seven hours in the day, he would invite a friend to come in the evening and play with him, adding that he felt in a particularly happy vein that day; and even during an excursion with friends he would take a dumb keyboard with him in the carriage. By diligent use of the instruction he had received from Wieck in Leipzig, he brought himself to high perfection as an executant ; and at the same time increased his efforts at improvisation. One of his musical associates at this time used afterwards to say that from the playing of no other artist, however great, had he ever ex- perienced such ineffaceable musical impressions ; the ideas seem to pour into the player's mind in an inexhaustible flow, and their profound originality and poetic charm already clearly foreshadowed the main features of his musical individuality. Schumann appeared only once in public, at a concert given by a musical society at Heidelberg, where he played Moscheles's varia- tions on the ' Alexandermarsch' with great suc- cess. He received many requests to play again, but refused them all, probably, as a student, finding it not convenient.

It will no doubt be a matter of surprise that Schumann could have justified himself in thus spending year after year in a merely nominal study of the law, while in fact wholly given up to his favourite taste and pursuit. A certain lack of determination, a certain shrinking from anything disagreeable, betray themselves during these years as his general characteristics, and

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