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Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Travel Diary, May 1-4, 2011

I would like to convey by this medium some of the wet, green, Romanticism that is a pervasively ubiquitous and strong element in the music of Robert Schumann, as also in the landscapes of his city of Leipzig. He was born in Zwickau, to the south of Leipzig, and died in remote Düsseldorf, but most of his greatest works were composed in Leipzig, where he lived his young manhood and met the love of his life, Clara Wieck.

Be sure to view the photographs by clicking on them to expand their size.

"He has made himself a new ideal world in which he moves almost as he wills." (Franz Grillparzer on Schumann)

Portrait of Robert Schumann (1810-1856)

Romantic Leipzig

The Auerwald (Forest of Green Pastures) in Leipzig. Schumann may well have thought, as he walked in the Auerwald, of the words of Psalm 23, which were so important to Luther: “Der Herr ist mein Hirte, mir wird nichts mangeln. Er weidet mich auf einer grünen Aue und führet mich zu frischem Wassern." (Lutherbibel)

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.” (Psalm 23, King James Version)

Until the 1920's the many waterways in Leipzig, three rivers meet there, were free for vessels of all kinds: From Auerwald in the south of the city it was possible to make rowing trips right into the city centre.

Schumann, Fantasie, Op. 17, 3rd. movement (1836)

The Fantasie in C, Op. 17, was composed in the summer of 1836 in Leipzig. It is meant to have a “dreamy” (träumerisch) character. The above is only the third movement of the piece.

Portrait of Clara Wieck (Wikipedia)

The Schumann House in Leipzig

From 1840 to 1844, the newly-wed Schumanns lived in the house which is now the Clara Schumann School of Music for Children. Its address is now number 18 on Inselstrasse, but in the days of the Schumanns it was 5 Inselstrasse.

Robert-und-Clara-Schumann-Verein-Leipzig-Inselstraße-18 e.V.
Inselstr. 18
04103 Leipzig
Tel.: 0341 - 393 96 20
Fax: 0341 - 393 96 22

Home of the Schumanns in Leipzig

Robert and Clara had fought a long and difficult battle to achieve their union. Clara’s father, Friedrich Wieck, a respected professor of piano, voice teacher, piano firm owner, and music reviewer in Leipzig, was stubbornly opposed to any relations between her daughter and the young musician. Schumann asked for Wieck’s consent to a marriage in 1837, and was refused. Despite the opposition, Clara and Robert continued their clandestine relationship, exchanging secret love letters and meeting briefly after her concerts in the city. The friendship matured into a deep and lasting romance, fueled by the strain and frustration of years duration, all of which would forever be heard in the lyrical and Romantic music of Schumann. In 1837, he asked her father's consent to their marriage, but was refused. Wieck ridiculed his daughter's wish to "throw herself away on a penniless composer.”

Photo of mosaic on the Grimmaischestrasse in Leipzig, showing the location of the childhood home of Clara Wieck, where she lived from 1825 and 1835, and where Schumann lived with the family in 1830 and 1831.

After a long and acrimonious legal battle with her father, Clara finally married Schumann on September 12, 1840, at Schönefeld. They finally resolved the battle by waiting until she was of legal age and no longer subject to her father's consent for marriage.

The Leipzig Gewandhaus, yesterday and today.

Since the early nineteenth century, the Leipzig Gewandhaus has been the center of musical performance in this, almost religiously, musical city. Felix Mendelssohn was Kapellmeister, music director, of the Gewandhaus in the 1830's, and Clara Schumann here performed at the premiere of the Schumann Piano Concerto Op. 54 (see below), under the baton of her husband.

The Gewandhaus is the traditional home of the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. The first building was already erected in 1498 and originally served as armoury. When the first floor started to be used as a trading place for draperies and woolens, the whole building soon became known as 'Gewandhaus', 'cloth hall'. In 1780/1781 the second floor was adapted as a concert hall. The orchestra itself had been founded in 1743 and soon after its first concert at its new location became known as 'Gewandhausorchester'. The old Gewandhaus was partly torn down in 1893–1896 and incorporated into the municipal department store. The second Gewandhaus was built in 1882-1884 after a design by Martin Gropius. The building housed two concert halls; the large hall had a capacity of 1,700 seats, the chamber music hall seated 650. The building was severely damaged by two bomb raids in 1943 and 1944. The ruins were finally torn down in 1968. At first the site was used as a parking lot and in 2002 a new university building was built here. The present (third) Gewandhaus was built in 1977–1981 in Augustusplatz, opposite the new opera house. [ ]

Below, the old Gewandhaus, on the Augustus Platz, but around the corner from where the present Gewandhaus is located. This old Gewandhaus is the one existing at the time of Mendelssohn, the Schumanns, Lizt and Wagner, demolished in 1882.

Below, the new Gewandhaus built in the 1880's across from the old opera house, on the Augustus Platz, the Gewandhaus of the Wilhelmine Era, which was destroyed during World War II by Allied bombing raids. On the façade of the building, the words: Res Severa Verum Gaudium (“True joy is a serious thing.”), are from Seneca the younger, Epistolae morales, 23, 4.

Below, the presently new Gewandhaus, built after the Second World War on the spot where the second Gewandhaus was located.

On the Augustus Platz, the fountain (Mende Brunnen) across from the Leipzig Gewandhaus [The Mende-Brunnen was designed in 1893 by Adolph Gnauth; the sculptures were created by Jakob Ungerer. The fountain was unveiled in 1896. The financial means for its construction were bequeathed by land owner Pauline Mende after whom the fountain was named. The fountain was originally set up on Augustusplatz. It was relocated several times but now has been moved back to almost its original location in the Augustusplatz.]

The stage in Schumann's life when he was deeply engaged in setting of Goethe's Faust to music (1844–53) was a critical one for Schumann’s mental and physical health. He spent the first half of 1844 with Clara on tour in Russia. On returning to Germany, he abandoned his editorial work and left Leipzig for Dresden, where he suffered from persistent “nervous prostration.” As soon as he began to work, he was seized with fits of shivering and an apprehension of death, experiencing an abhorrence for high places, for all metal instruments (even keys), and for drugs. Schumann's diaries also state that he suffered perpetually from imagining that he had the note A5 sounding in his ears. It was an anticipation of his final collapse from madness in Düsseldorf, in 1856.

The Weiße Elster, White Elster River, runs through the city of Leipzig

Georg Szell conducts the beginning of Schumann's Second Symphony

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