There is no current commercial biography of Robert Schumann: and 2006 is the 150th anniversary of his death. His life has, for the last thirty years, been the happy hunting-ground of musicologists and psychologists (amateur and professional): and his story was, anyway, overshadowed in the 1980s and 1990s by the reading public’s desire to know about his wife Clara. However, a host of recent performances and recordings of his music confirm that the old stories of ‘instability’ and ‘madness’ damaging his life and work are wrong. He was not unstable: and although he died in an insane asylum, he was suffering from physical, not psychological illness.
John Worthen’s new biography rescues the composer from the 19th century pieties and the 20th century psychologising which have so badly distorted all contemporary accounts of him. Schumann emerges as an artist troubled not by mental instability, but by extraordinary early disadvantages, by illness, by the protracted struggle for Clara with his father-in-law, and by the huge problem of making a living out of music that was highly advanced and often misunderstood. The book also stresses the composer’s achievement in spite of everything he encountered, and celebrates his quiet, witty, tenacious and determined attitude of mind.
John Worthen was born in London in 1943 and – as an academic in Charlottesville, Swansea and Nottingham – specialised for many years in writing about the life and editing the work of D. H. Lawrence; he ended up as Professor of D. H. Lawrence Studies at the University of Nottingham. His first book was D. H. Lawrence and the Idea of the Novel (Macmillan, 1979); he published D. H. Lawrence: A Literary Life with Macmillan in 1989, D. H. Lawrence with Edward Arnold in 1991 and his major study D. H. Lawrence: The Early Years 1885-1912 appeared from Cambridge University Press in 1991. ...
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