Robert Schumann (German: ; 8 June 1810 – 29 July 1856) was a German composer and influential music critic. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest composers of the Romantic era. Schumann left the study of law, intending to pursue a career as a virtuoso pianist. He had been assured by his teacher Friedrich Wieck, a German pianist, that he could become the finest pianist in Europe, but a hand injury ended this dream. Schumann then focused his musical energies on composing.
Schumann's published compositions were written exclusively for the piano until 1840; he later composed works for piano and orchestra; many Lieder (songs for voice and piano); four symphonies; one opera; and other orchestral, choral, and chamber works. Works such as Carnaval, Symphonic Studies, Kinderszenen, Kreisleriana, and the Fantasie in C are among his most famous. His writings about music appeared mostly in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (New Journal for Music), a Leipzig-based publication which he jointly founded.
In 1840, Schumann married Friedrich Wieck's daughter Clara, against the wishes of her father, following a long and acrimonious legal battle, which found in favor of Clara and Robert. Clara also composed music and had a considerable concert career as a pianist, the earnings from which, before her marriage, formed a substantial part of her father's fortune.
Schumann suffered from a mental disorder, first manifesting itself in 1833 as a severe melancholic depressive episode, which recurred several times alternating with phases of "exaltation" and increasingly also delusional ideas of being poisoned or threatened with metallic items. After a suicide attempt in 1854, Schumann was admitted to a mental asylum, at his own request, in Endenich near Bonn. Diagnosed with "psychotic melancholia", Schumann died two years later in 1856 at the age of 46 without having recovered from his mental illness.
Schumann was born in Zwickau, in the Kingdom of Saxony, the fifth and last child of Johanna Christiane (née Schnabel) and August Schumann. Schumann began to compose before the age of seven, but his boyhood was spent in the cultivation of literature as much as music – undoubtedly influenced by his father, a bookseller, publisher, and novelist.
Schumann began receiving general musical and piano instruction at the age of seven from Johann Gottfried Kuntzsch, a teacher at the Zwickau high school. The boy immediately developed a love of music and worked at creating musical compositions himself, without the aid of Kuntzsch. Even though he often disregarded the principles of musical composition, he created works regarded as admirable for his age. The Universal Journal of Music 1850 supplement included a biographical sketch of Schumann that noted, "It has been related that Schumann, as a child, possessed rare taste and talent for portraying feelings and characteristic traits in melody, — ay, he could sketch the different dispositions of his intimate friends by certain figures and passages on the piano so exactly and comically that everyone burst into loud laughter at the similitude of the portrait."
At age 14, Schumann wrote an essay on the aesthetics of music and also contributed to a volume, edited by his father, titled Portraits of Famous Men. While still at school in Zwickau, he read the works of the German poet-philosophers Schiller and Goethe, as well as Byron and the Greek tragedians. His most powerful and permanent literary inspiration was Jean Paul, a German writer whose influence is seen in Schumann's youthful novels Juniusabende, completed in 1826, and Selene.