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My Beef regarding Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms' music (Part 1)

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Disclaimer: This is only my opinion. Air and Polednice, remember, I like you both!


People always told me I am close-minded. They mentioned, that once I set my mind into a ''certain thing'', it is hard to change it a bit. My sister in particular, told me ''(insert my name here), you suck!''. I can't say I agree with her, because I think, she (a brat) sucks more than I.

(Where am I?)

The first time I heard the music of Robert ''Bobby'' Schumann (as Air would call him), I was flabbergasted. Not in the way, I was amazed or enlightened, rather, Schumann's music (to my ears) is pretty dull and bland. My first experience with Schumann was like watching a new planted wheat grass, goes green.
Schumann's music never moved me. Unlike Beethoven, Schubert or Bach which give tingles in my spine, Schumann's music seems ''ordinary''. Especially, Schubert who give me goosebumps...

Schumann, the Superman

"That guy must be really crazy'', I remarked after reading the biography of Schumann. For what Schumann's music worth to me, I admired Schumann for one thing. He is a very talented music critic and a great storyteller.

Here's why:

So a Schubert symphony laid in dust for almost 10 years. Schumann, in passing, visited the graves of Beethoven and Schubert, and Schumann's have this bright idea of visiting Franz's brother, Ferdinand.

Ferdinand, who is not taller than Franz (5ft, 1inch, little mushroom!), showed some of Schubert's old manuscripts. Schumann, in particular was interested in a symphony whose ''heavenly length'' intrigued him. (''WTF'', must be Schumann's words after discovering the symphony'') He poached the manuscript to Ferdinand hands (writing to Clara to that he was very excited), gave it to Mendelssohn. Mendelssohn, with his curly hair, premiered the whole symphony and Schumann, lavished praises to the ''great'' symphony, which he labeled ''as the greatest instrumental work after the death of Beethoven''. The symphony garnered mixed reaction from the audience and critics alike, but it was accepted in the repertoire over the years (let's thank Bruckner symphonies for that!). Toward his life, as Schumann career flourished, he championed Schubert works in his writings. For that alone, I would kiss Schumann's feet.


Like I said, I never did enjoy Schumann's music. Here's my roasted beefs:

For the record, I adore the Piano concerto, which is gorgeous.

1. Symphonies 2, 3, 4 (Schumann! An orchestra is not a piano. Ok?)

2. String quartets (dull and lifeless)

3. Piano quintet (I'd like some Trout, mama)

4. Piano quartet (no comment)

5. Dichterliebe (a Winterriese wannabe)

A light at the end of a tunnel shines through

Fortunately, Air told me I was seeing Schumann's music in wrong way. It should be green, not blue. He recommend some miniature piano pieces such as the Kinderszen/Carnaval etc.. I can't say I enjoyed it more enough than the Impromptus, but they were good enough in casual listening. I think I need to listen to Schumann's music more..

Brahms should be next..

To be continued...
Likes Air liked this post


  1. Polednice's Avatar
    Hahahahahahaha, when you get onto Brahms, I'll forgive you just for remembering me in your disclaimer ;)
  2. Air's Avatar

    But the truth is, peeyaj, I quite admire you for this. I don't think you're closed-minded at all - you said yourself that you saw some light in Schumann's piano music and that you were willing to explore further. And that, my friend, is truly admirable. (And you love Schumann's Piano Concerto too...can't fault you there!)

    Actually, in some ways I have you to thank for this post, 'cause it has finally opened the opportunity for me to start my own TC blog! I've been scratching my head on what to write the last few days... and now I know. Prepare for counter-attack!

    I don't quite remember ever calling Schumann "Bobby" ...*scratches head*

    Updated Apr-13-2011 at 08:07 by Air
  3. peeyaj's Avatar
    @Air, Polednice

    Thanks for being a good sport
  4. peeyaj's Avatar
    By the way Air, here's your Bobby post..

    post #30...
  5. Air's Avatar
    Of all places... on a Schubert thread!

    Well, I love Franz's music too.
  6. Sid James's Avatar
    I can sympathise with peeyaj's views, but only from a position of relative ignorance. I have heard much less Schumann than peeyaj. So far, the man has been "hit and miss" for me.

    Last year, I acquired the most Schumann I have to date, a collection of recordings by Ansermet & the Suisse Romande (image below). I mainly bought it to get a recording of the Cello Concerto, which I was to see live in the middle of the year. This was the only work that really grabbed me on the 2 disc set (the legendary Maurice Gendron is soloist). Of course, I had heard the Piano Concerto before, and it is one of the most popular in the repertoire so it's no surprise I also like it (this is a rare live radio recording by Dinu Lipatti). The horn piece orchestrated by Ansermet and the first two symphonies haven't grabbed me much, but I might come back to them at one point when I'm in the mood.

    I also saw the Piano Quartet live last year, an interesting piece. Before they played it, the cellist explained that the cello has to be tuned down before the slow movement to play it's last note in that movement, which is quite unearthly and ethereal (a bit like a c19th presaging of Ligeti or Xenakis harmonies).

    I have heard a few of his longer solo piano works but never owned them. Etudes Symphoniques, Faschingshwank aus Wien & the Fantasy in C where the most interesting ones. I heard one of his piano trios for the first and only time last year at a recital, and it was more Romantic and emotional than what I have tended to think of him as before. I also remember hearing his 3 pieces for clarinet and piano at a song recital last year, and it was okay, but not earth shattering.

    I have heard none of his lieder to date. That will change, because a friend of mine has Dichterliebe on disc, and we will listen to that at some stage together.

    The Manfred Overture (on the Ansermet disc) and the 4th Symphony (which I used to have, but no longer do - but I can still remember it well) are probably my favourite works by him that I have heard (apart from the cello and piano concertos). I particularly like the way he deals with one theme throughout one work, without breaks in the movements (as in the 4th symphony and cello concerto). His music can have a very flowing, fluid quality not attained easily by many other composers. This is very innovative and speaks to what happened later in the c20th. I have heard the violin concerto on radio a few years back, I can remember that it was interesting, but I haven't rushed out to buy it.

    I do want to get a disc or two of his solo piano music. I have seen some budget releases by De Laroccha and Richter which I might get at some stage.

    He's a composer who, so far, I have been at opposite ends of the spectrum with - my reaction is either quite hot or quite cold - there is little in between. But like peeyaj, I'm still quite open to exploring his works further in the coming years...

  7. peeyaj's Avatar
    Thanks, Andre..