CHAPTER 4
Commitment to Music

This is ultimately what it is like to be alone: you spin yourself into the silk of your soul, you become a pupa and await the metamorphosis, which is certain to come. While waiting, you live on your past experiences and telepathically you live the lives of others. Death and resurrection; being reared and trained for something new and strange.

—Strindberg, Alone

HERE WAS NO MORE CRUCIAL TIME IN SCHUMANN'S LIFE than the three-and-a-half years from October 1830 until the spring of 1834—the period of his apprenticeship as a musician. During that time, he acquired what was to serve as the foundation for his skills as a pianist and as a composer. But as his mother had noted to Wieck, these were skills Schumann should have learned much earlier. He was twenty years old and just beginning seriously to study music—an unusually late start. In addition, he had received only grudging consent to begin his new career. In time, his life became exceptionally stressful, often because of his determination to accomplish as much as possible in as short a time as possible. There were frequent personal crises and setbacks as well. As a result, these years were among the darkest and most challenging of Schumann's life.

He began his new career in a depressed and morose humor, the

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