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Schumann: The Faces and the Masks

Drawing on previously unpublished sources, this groundbreaking biography of Robert Schumann sheds new light on the great composer’s life and work. With the rigorous research of a scholar and the eloquent prose of a novelist, Judith Chernaik takes us into Schumann’s nineteenth-century Romantic milieu, where he wore many “masks” that gave voice to each corner of his soul. The son of a book publisher, he infused his pieces with literary ideas. He was passionately original but worshipped the past: Bach and Beethoven, Shake­speare and Byron. He believed in artistic freedom but struggled with constraints of form. His courtship and marriage to the brilliant pianist Clara Wieck—against her father’s wishes—is one of the great musical love stories of all time. Chernaik freshly explores his troubled relations with fellow composers Mendelssohn and Chopin, and the full medi­cal diary—long withheld—from the Endenich asylum where he spent his final years enables her to look anew at the mystery of his early death. By turns tragic and transcendent, Schumann shows how this extraordinary artist turned his tumultuous life into music that speaks directly—and timelessly—to the heart.

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