Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/400

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When Schumann entered upon his third year of study, he made a serious effort to devote himself to jurisprudence ; he took what was called a Bepetitorium, that is, he began going over again with considerable difficulty, and under the care and guidance of an old lawyer, what he had neglected during two years. He also endeavoured to reconcile himself to the idea of practical work in public life or the government service. His spirit soared up to the highest goal, and at times he may have flattered his fancy with dreams of having attained it ; but he must have been convinced of the improbability of such dreams ever coming true ; and indeed he never got rid of his antipathy to the law as a profes- sion, even in the whole course of his Bepeti- torium. On the other hand it must be said, that if he was ever to be a musician, it was becoming high time for it, since he was now 20 years old. Thus every consideration urged him to the point. Schumann induced his mother, who was still extremely averse to the calling of a musician, to put the decision in the hands of Friedrich Wieck. Wieck did not conceal from him that such a step ought only to be taken after the most thorough self-examination, but if he had already examined himself, then Wieck could only advise him to take the step. Upon this his mother yielded, and Robert Schumann became a musician. The delight and freedom which he inwardly felt when the die was cast, must have shown him that he had done right. At first his intention was only to make himself a great pianoforte-player, and he reckoned that in six years he would be able to compete with any pianist. But he still felt very uncertain as to his gift as a composer ; the words which he wrote to his mother on July 30, 1830 'Now and then I discover that I have imagination, and perhaps a turn for creating things myself ' sound curiously wanting in confidence, when we remember how almost exclusively Schumann's artistic greatness was to find expression in his compositions.

He quitted Heidelberg late in the summer of 1830, in order to resume his studies with Wieck in Leipzig. He was resolved, after having wasted two years and a half, to devote himself to his new calling with energetic purpose and manly vigour. And faithfully did he keep to his resolution. The plan of becoming a great pianist had, however, to be given up after a year. Actuated by the passionate desire to achieve a per- fect technique as speedily as possible, Schumann devised a contrivance by which the greatest pos- sible dexterity of finger was to be attained in the shortest time. By means of this ingenious appliance the third finger was drawn back and kept still, while the other fingers had to practice exercises. But the result was that the tendons of the third finger were overstrained, the finger was crippled, and for some time the whole right hand was injured. This most serious condition was alleviated by medical treat- ment. Schumann recovered the use of his hand, and could, when needful, even play the piano ;


but the third finger remained useless, so that he was for ever precluded from the career of a virtuoso. Although express evidence is want- ing, we may assume with certainty that this unexpected misfortune made a deep impression upon him ; he saw himself once more con- fronted with the question whether it was advis- able for him to continue in the calling he had chosen. That he answered it in the affirm- ative shows that during this time his confidence in his own creative genius had wonderfully increased. He soon reconciled himself to the inevitable, learned to appreciate mechanical dexterity at its true value, and turned his undivided attention to composition. He con- tinued henceforth in the most friendly rela- tions with his pianoforte-master, Wieck ; indeed until the autumn of 1832 he lived in the same house with him (Grimmaische Strasse, No. 36), and was almost one of the family. For his in- structor in composition, however, he chose Heinrich Dorn, at that time conductor of the opera in Leipzig, subsequently Capellmeister at Riga, Cologne, and Berlin, and still living in Berlin in full possession of his intellectual vigour. Dorn was a clever and sterling com- poser; he recognised the greatness of Schu- mann's genius, and devoted himself with much interest to his improvement. 1 It was impossible as yet to confine Schumann to a regular course of composition : he worked very diligently, but would take up now one point of the art of com- position and now another. In 1836 he writes- to Dorn at Riga that he often regrets having learnt in too irregular a manner at this time ; but when he adds directly afterwards that, not- withstanding this, he had learnt more from Dorn's teaching than Dorn would believe, we may take this last statement as true. Schu- mann was no longer a tyro in composition, but had true musical genius, and his spirit was already matured. Under such circumstances he was justified in learning in his own way.

In the winter of 1832-3, he lived at Zwickau, and for a time also with his brothers at Schnee- berg. Besides a pianoforte- concerto, which still remains a fragment, he was working at a sym- phony in Gr minor, of which the first move- ment was publicly performed in the course of the winter both at Schneeberg and Zwickau. If we may trust certain evidence (see 'Musik- alisches Wochenblatt' ; Leipzig, 1875, p. 180), the whole symphony was performed at Zwickau in 1835, under Schumann's own direction, and the last movement was almost a failure.

At all events the symphony was finished, and Schumann expected it to be a great success ; in this he must have been disappointed, for it has never been published. The first performance of the first movement at Zwickau took place at a concert given there on Nov. 1 8, 1832, by Wieck's daughter Clara, who was then thirteen years of

i Schumann's gratitude to him is thus expressed : ' The man who- first gave a hand to me as I climbed upwards, and, when I began to- doubt myself, drew me aloft so that I should see less of the common, herd of mankind, and more of the pure air of art.'

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