Schumann was the son of a bookseller, publisher and
writer and showed early abilities in both music and literature.
The second facility used in his later writing on musical subjects.
After brief study at university, his mother allowed him to undertake serious study of the piano with Friedrich Wieck, whose daughter Clara was later to become Schumann's wife.
His ambitions as a pianist were thwarted by a weakness in the fingers of one hand, but
during the 1830's, despite the weakness in his hands, he brought a number of compositions for the piano.
The year of his marriage, 1840, was a year of song, followed by attempts in which his young wife encouraged him at more ambitious forms of orchestral composition.
Settling first in Leipzig and then in Dresden, the Schumann's moved in 1850 to Dusseldorf, where Schumann had his first official appointment, as municipal director of music.
In 1854 he had a serious mental breakdown, followed by two years in the asylum at Endenich before his death in 1856.
Schumann completed four symphonies.
The first, written soon after his marriage and completed early in 1841,
is known as "Spring".
A second symphony followed in 1846 and the third, the "Rhenish", a celebration of the Rhineland and its great cathedral at Cologne, was written in Dusseldorf in 1850.
The fourth of the symphonies was an earlier work, revised for Dusseldorf in 1852.
The Overture, Scherzo and Finale, Op. 52, was described by the composer as a
Schumann's only completed piano concerto was started in 1841 and completed in 1845.
The Cello Concerto of 1850 was first performed four years after Schumann's death, while the 1853 Violin Concerto had to wait over eighty years before its first performance in 1937.
The Konzertstuck for four French horns is an addition to orchestral repertoire.
Schumann's Introduction and Allegro for piano and orchestra was completed in 1853.
The overture to Schumann's only completed opera, Genoveva, is part of concert-hall repertoire, with an overture to Byron's Manfred.
Again this was first intended for the theatre.
Concert overtures include Die Braut von Messina (The Bride from Messina), based on Schiller's play of that name, Julius Ceasar, based on Shakespeare, and Hermann und Dorothea, based on Goethe.
A setting of scenes from Goethe's Faust also includes an overture.
Schumann wrote three string quartets in 1842.
Other important chamber music by Schumann includes three piano trios, three violin sonatas and a number of shorter character-pieces that include the Mrechenbilder for violin and piano.
Collections of Phantasiestucke, with alternative instrumentation and the cello and piano Funf Stucke im Volkston, with other short pieces generally suggesting a literary or otherwise extra-musical
Choral and Vocal Music
Schumann wrote a number of part-songs for mixed voices.
His choral works with orchestra include Scenes from Goethe's Faust, Das Paradies und die Peri, based on Thomas Moore's poem Lalla Rookh, and Requiem for Mignon, based on Goethe's Wilhelm Meister novel.
In his final years he wrote a setting of the Mass and of the Requiem Mass.
The solo songs of Schumann offer a rich repertoire, an important addition to German Lieder repertoire.
From these many settings mention may be made of the collections and song-cycles Myrthen, Op. 25, Liederkreis, Op. 39, Frauenliebe und-leben, Op. 42, and Dichterliebe, Op. 48, all written in the Year of Song, 1840.
The piano music of Schumann, offers a wealth of material.
From the earlier period comes Carnaval, which is a series of short musical scenes based on the letters of the composer's name and that of the town of Asch, home of Ernestine von Fricken, a fellow-student of Friedrich Wieck, to whom Schumann was briefly engaged.
The same period brought the Davidsbundlertnze (Dances of the League of David), a reference to the imaginary league of friends of art against the surrounding Philistines.
This decade also brought the first version of the monumental Symphonic Studies, based on a theme by the father of Ernestine von Fricken, and the well known Kinderszenen (Scenes of Childhood).
Kreisleriana has its literary source in the Hoffmann character Kapellmeister Kreisler, as Papillons (Butterflies) have a source in the work of the writer Jean Paul and Noveletten a clear literary reference in the very title. Later piano music by Schumann includes the Album fur die Jugend of 1848, Waldszenen of 1849 and the collected Bunte Blutter and Albumblutter drawn from earlier work.