Without hitting you over the head, Chernaik allows you to feel the core of Schumann’s story: his love for his wife, Clara, a great concert pianist and formidable muse. Between this and the battle against his own demons to compose truthful music, Schumann’s spirit comes across as an antidote to all the hate and perverse self-love we are forced to swallow in public affairs, day after day ... Chernaik gets the incredible essence of this: how he offloaded his difficult emotional world onto an imaginary band of alternative identities, partly for survival, to fight the philistine world on better terms. I wish she had dug a bit further into the way he translated them into music ... Chernaik, drawn to this supercharged story and the music, has backed up her affection with solid research.
Picture a man swooning and raging with all the passions of youth. Every problem is a crisis, each feeling an ocean. His commitment to political and artistic freedom yields only to the irrepressible truths of love and beauty. Put that exhausting spirit to music and you have the tragic Romantic composer Robert Schumann. His diaries repeatedly refer to the worst day or night or week of his life.
The great composer Robert Schumann receives a sharp, knowing, and complicatedly sympathetic treatment in his latest biography, Schumann: The Faces and the Masks by Judith Chernaik, who fills her book with Schumann’s music but keeps her focus always on the man. Schumann hasn’t lacked for biographers since his death in 1856...Chernaik does everything she can to change this; not only does her book feature some of the most passionate appreciations of Schumann’s music ever written in English, but she leaves her readers very specific and very encouraging instructions on how to find every last note of that music for free online.