Robert Schumann
John Worthen

Robert Schumann

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.

Book Details:

  • Author: John Worthen
  • Published Year: 2007
  • Rights Sold
    • UK: Yale
    • Macedonia: Nampress

John Worthen

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. ...
More about John Worthen

Book Reviews

  • "the most complete and engrossing account of Schumann’s life yet written. Worthen has marshalled an amazing amount of research into a perceptive study that reads like a good novel’"
    Classic FM - The Magazine
  • "One by one, Worthen knocks down the sacred cows of Schumann biography . . . Life and Death of a Musician avoids the pitfalls which often beset large, detailed musical biographies, largely because it’s so beautifully written."
    Irish Times
  • "detailed and level-headed . . . an impressive and elegantly-written biography."
    BBC Music Magazine
  • "A major revision of the reality of Schumann’s life, a far cry from the tragic portrait that has been handed down."
    Bookzone
  • "...engaging, well written and clearly aimed at the general reader...a good introduction to the story of Schumann’s life.....for those wanting to read an affectionate life of one of the greatest and most lovable figures of the early 19th century, this book can be recommended."
    The Guardian
  • "Confounding long-standing myths, this new biography offers the first reliable portrait of the enigmatic Robert Schumann, revealing the robust and positive life he actually lived."
    Publishing News
  • "John Worthen’s achievement is to rehabilitate Schumann through detailed attention to contemporary sources, which substantially conflict with received wisdom."
    Good Book Guide
  • "We have always lacked good biographies of Schumann, and this one will become a standard reference work."
    The Independent
  • "beautifully written and meticulously researched."
    Literary Review
  • "this riveting account of Schumann’s life also manages to encapsulate both the joy and elation of one of music’s greatest, still neglected geniuses, and to express a passionate enthusiasm for his works. For this, Schumannites ought to be deeply grateful."
    Sunday Times
  • "…this well-written biography…"
    Daily Telegraph
  • "…fine and scholarly new biography…skilfully juxtaposes the various phases of Scumann’s creativity with the trials and triumphs of his personal life. This book will be, for some time to come, the starting-point of any new studies of this most mercurial and endearing of composers."
    Sunday Telegraph
  • "  ...one of the best composer biographies, a natural September Selection of the Month for REFLECTIONS ON A GRAND PASSION™ . While too many composer biographies read like an unconnected assembly of facts, Worthen integrates his research into an engaging story, aided by his rich, unfaltering prose.. an excellent biography.    "
    Reflections on a Grand Passion