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2006: Robert Schumann and Dresden

Robert Schumann and Dresden One third of Schumann’s complete works were composed in Dresden / Numerous concerts to be held in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the death of the composer in 2006


Almost everyone who has learned to play the piano has also played the musical notes written by Robert Schumann. His “Children’s Scenes” with the famous “The Happy Countryman” comprise a part of the repertory of all piano schools throughout the world. In Germany alone there are more than 300,000 piano students as well as four million Germans who have learned to play the piano. A total of 30,000 pianos are made and sold in Europe. In China this figure equals 240,000 pianos.

A study on this popular instrument written by the piano manufacturer Bechstein has been published in the internet. This study has also helped to popularise Saxon and German musical history in the world.

Robert Schumann probably couldn’t have imagined this tremendous success at the beginning of his career. Robert Schumann was born on 8 June 1810 in Zwickau in Saxony. His birthplace in the middle of the historic old town of Zwickau is now a museum.

In 1828 he began to study law in Leipzig where he met the piano teacher Friedrich Wieck (1785 - 1873) – an encounter which was to change his life. In Heidelberg Schumann continued his law studies. After listening to a concert performed by the master violinist Nicolò Paganini in Frankfurt, he decided to become a professional musician.

Schumann thus discontinued his law studies, and in 1831 he began to study piano with Friedrich Wieck. Wieck had a beautiful twelve-year old daughter Clara who was a wonder child. She had already begun to play at large concerts at the age of nine. At the age of eleven a concert tour had taken her to Dresden for the first time.Robert and Clara soon fell in love. This was very much disapproved by her father who did everything he could to separate the two. But all to no avail, since on 12 September 1840 the wedding bells were to ring.

In 1842 the first symptoms of Schumann’s nervous disorder broke out. He therefore searched for a peaceful place which would provide him with at least as much musical inspiration as Leipzig but also with a townscape and scenery which would sooth his sensitive romantic soul. Schumann had in fact complained about Leipzig: “Nature – where can I find it here... Neither vale, nor hill, nor woods which would allow me to abandon myself to my thoughts”. 

On 12 December 1844 Clara and Robert together with their children Marie, Elise and Julie arrived at Waisenhausstrasse 7 in Dresden. The house was completely destroyed during the Second World War. Today there is an open space here across from the building of the Dresdner Bank. In 1846 the family moved to Reitbahnstrasse. This building was also destroyed in 1945. Today the car parks of the ibis-Hotels and the Prager Strasse pedestrian precinct are located here. Schumann’s father-in-law, Friedrich Wieck, who Schumann only called “the old man”, had already moved to Dresden in 1840 just like Clara’s younger sister Marie who was also a well-known pianist. Wieck lived in a small house in Loschwitz which the Schumanns frequently visited.

The vine-covered building in the present Friedrich-Wieck-Strasse has a commemorative plaque which reminds the visitors of the time which Schumann spent here. His grave at the Trinitatis cemetery contains a medallion with his likeness. Schumann quickly found good friends in Dresden including the widow of Carl Maria von Weber and the conductor Ferdinand Hiller, the physician and painter Carl Gustav Carus and many other writers, artists and beaux esprits. In a letter to Mendelssohn from 18 November 1845, Schumann writes: “We are now meeting once every few weeks – Bendemann, Rietschel, Hübner, Wagner, Hiller, Reinick -, and there is always lots to talk about and to read out loud, and things are generally quite lively here.”

He kept diligent notes of his daily affairs in his housekeeping book. Here we can read about his walks through the Tharandt Forest and to the Saloppe, the meals he enjoyed at the Waldschlösschen restaurant, and his visits to operas and concerts including the ones held at the Hotel de Saxe and the Belvedere on Brühl Terrace. This was to be Schumann’s most productive period. More than one third of his complete works were created here: the scherzando 2nd symphony C major, the opera “Genoveva”, the “Scenes from Goethe’s Faust”, chamber music and choir songs as well as hundreds of songs and piano compositions, including in 1848 the “Album for the Youth”.

This autograph is one of the most significant of today’s musical treasures of the library museum Buchmuseum der Sächsischen Landes- und Hochschulbibliothek. This is where the so-called Schumann-Album is kept which primarily contains family documents. The most famous work was performed for the first time by his wife Clara on 4 December 1845 in the concert hall of the Hotel de Saxe: the piano concerto A minor. Clara was accompanied by the Hiller concert orchestra. The composition and the performance were given excellent reviews. The historical Hotel de Saxe was demolished in 1888 to make room for a post-office building. It is now being rebuilt as a Hotel again, and it is supposed to reopen in the spring of the Schumann anniversary year 2006.

Dresden failed to fulfil Schumann’s career expectations. In 1847 he was appointed Hiller’s successor as “Choir Master” at the Dresden Choral Society. On 5 January 1848 he founded the “Society for Choral Singing”, a precursor of the Singakademie Dresden which was founded in 1884. Schumann, who repeatedly suffered from recurrences of his nervous disorder, escaped the eventful revolutionary days of the summer of 1849 by fleeing to the peaceful countryside to the south of Dresden. The family first found refuge in a village outside of Dresden called Maxen. The family manor of the Prussian major Serre (today a Caritas home for the elderly) had already attracted the famous Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen.

From here the Schumanns then moved to Kreischa, a lovely spa town near Dresden which even today has managed to retain its peaceful and tranquil atmosphere. At the pond in the romantic park across from the town hall there is a bust in memory of Schumann’s stay in Kreischa where he wrote some of his most popular songs. Schumann attempted once more to start a career in Dresden. When Richard Wagner was forced to leave Dresden because of his involvement in the Revolution and his position thus became vacant, Schumann wanted to become his successor. However, Schumann’s romantic opera “Genoveva”, an opera which even today is not included in the repertory of opera houses, failed to convince the former director of Schumann’s ability to replace Wagner.

Disappointed by what he called the “petty bourgeois” of Dresden, Schumann with the help of his friend Hiller applied for the position of municipal music director in Düsseldorf. On the 1st of September 1850, Robert and Clara Schumann together with their now four children left Dresden for Düsseldorf. Here their happiness was only of short duration as great successes alternated with unpleasant disputes and intrigues. This was overshadowed by Schumann’s illness which had become more severe with time.

In 1854 Schumann resigned from his office and was admitted to the mental hospital in Endenich near Bonn. This is where he died on 28 July 1856. With the founding of the “Musician’s Society” four years after the departure of Schumann, his dream of a permanent concert society was finally realised. The successor of the Musician’s Society, the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra, which was founded in 1870, still preserves the heritage of Schumann to this very day.

At the Zwingerteich pond in the Zwinger Park behind the Opera Restaurant in Dresden, a monument has been erected in honour of the composer who with the works which he produced in Dresden has left the world with the gift of many delightful hours of musical pleasure.

Christoph Münch / DWT


Robert Schumann in a drawing by the art nouveau artist Fidus


Schumann bust

Schumann bust at the Zwinger pond in Dresden


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