Rethinking Schumann

Rethinking Schumann

Rethinking Schumann

Rethinking Schumann

Synopsis

A provocative re-examination of a major romantic composer, Rethinking Schumann provides fresh approaches to Schumann's oeuvre and its reception from the perspectives of literature, visual arts, cultural history, performance studies, dance, and film. Traditionally, research has focused on biographical links between the composer and his music, encouraging the assumption that Schumann was solitary, divorced from reality, and frequently associated with "untimeliness." Theseeighteen new essays argue from a multitude of perspectives that Schumann was in fact very much a man of his time, informed not only by music but also the culture and society around him. The book further reveals that the composer's reputation has been shaped significantly by, for example, changes in attitudestowards German romanticism and its history, and recent developments in musical scholarship and performance. Rethinking Schumann takes into account cultural and social-institutional frameworks, engages with ongoing and new issues of reception and historiography, and offers fresh music-analytical insights. As a whole, the essays assemble a portrait of the artist that reflects the different ways in which Schumann has been understood and misunderstood over the past two hundred years. Thevolume is, in short, a timely reassessment of this ultimately non-untimely figure's legacy.While the essays consider some of Schumann's most famous music (Dichterliebe, Kinderszenen and the Piano Quintet), they also provide crucial adjustment to judgments against the composer's later works by explaining their musical features not as the result of diminishing creative capacity but as reflections of the political and social situations of mid-nineteenth-century German culture and technological developments. Schumann is revealed to have been a musician engaged by andresponsive to his surroundings, whose reputation was formed to a great extent by popular culture, both in his own lifetime as he responded to particular poets and painters, and later, as his life and works were responded to by subsequent generations.

Excerpt

A composer’s centenary is usually geared toward celebrating the artist’s achievements and investigating forgotten reaches of repertoire. It can also be a useful opportunity to take stock: to reflect on the state of existing views and to suggest new paths. the essays gathered here aim to rethink scholarly approaches to Robert Schumann (1810–56) on the occasion of the bicentenary of his birth. Whether the reader is familiar with Schumann studies or comes to it with little background, it is hoped that the ideas, perspectives, and directions offered will serve as departure points for a broad and continuing discussion of his work and times.

Schumann and his works command an enviable amount of attention around the world. Regularly performed and recorded by major artists, ensembles, and orchestras, his music continues to speak to generations beyond his own. As may be expected, the scholarly bibliography on Schumann is vast and multilingual; it dates back to the early decades of the nineteenth century and shows few signs of abating. in particular, the steady stream of publications from the Robert-Schumann-Gesellschaft in Zwickau and the Robert-SchumannForschungstelle in Düsseldorf has made available not only information about Schumann’s everyday activities, but also, via the new complete edition (Neue Robert-Schumann-Gesamtausgabe), fresh insights into Schumann’s working methods by returning to the manuscripts and by disentangling the publication and reception history of each work. Moreover, like Mozart, Beethoven, and other select composers, Schumann also attracts nonscholarly writings, mostly in the form of biographies. Briefly put, the sheer amount and variety of available information on Schumann is nothing short of impressive—even intimidating.

In many ways this volume is built on this array of collected knowledge. However, in taking up the challenge to rethink Schumann on the occasion of the bicentenary of his birth we have also tried to introduce themes and topics that have received rather less attention over the years but that promise to enhance our understanding of this major figure. Thus a hallmark of this volume is that it covers areas heavily researched and those markedly less so. Among the former, for example, is the reception of Schumann’s biography. the widespread and continuing fascination with the story of his life, and its connections to his music . . .

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