CHAPTER 3
Schumann and Literature

The greatest pleasure in life is that of reading, while we are young.

—Hazlitt, “Whether Genius is Conscious of Its Powers”

FOR MUCH OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY, THE INTEREST OF composers not just in music but in all the arts was trulyextraordinary. An interrelationship among the arts was commonly recognized. “The well-educated musician, ” wrote Schumann, “can studya Madonna by Raphael, the painter a symphony by Mozart, with equal benefit. Yet more: in sculpture the actor becomes a silent statue while he brings the sculptor's work to life—the painter transforms a poem into an image, the musician sets a painting to music. ”1 Coupled with a broad interest in the arts was a preoccupation with the “extramusical” properties of music itself. It was a literaryage, and program music flourished. That may, to a certain extent, help explain the interest many composers had in literature. Not a few were distinguished writers themselves: Berlioz as critic, essayist, and autobiographer; Liszt as critic and essayist; Wagner as dramatist, essayist, and theoretician; and Weber as critic and author of an unfinished novel.

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1
“Aus Meister Rators, Florestans und Euesbius' Denk-und Dichtbüchlein, ” (c. 1833) in GS I, p. 26.

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