Book Reviews (マイブック評)

Schumann: The Faces and the Masks by Judith Chernaik

January 6, 2023

I just finished this book. The biographical elements of the book are very interesting and fascinating; however I did not enjoy the very detailed (and personal) discussion of his compositions. They are too descriptive and interrupt the flow of the stories. I could not stop reading the end of this book where Schumann’s life in the asylum was talked about. I was not aware of many facts discussed in this book. It is pretty sure that the horrible mental illness and early death of the composer were caused by syphilis, contracted early in his life. His ending was absolutely heartbroken. Thanks to Brahms and Joachim, they visited Schumann frequently and sent their reports to Clara who was not permitted to see her husband until a few days before his death.

As the title tells us, Schumann had many faces. Anyone idolizing Robert Schumann (me??) may be disappointed to learn details of his many faults: FI, abandoned his pregnant mistress and never cared for their illegitimate child; dumped a fiance when he learned she was neither noble nor rich.

It is interesting to learn about his interaction with Chopin and Mendelssohn. I was totally not aware that Mendelssohn had a bitter feeling toward Schumann in their later lives. I was in Leipzig this past summer, and I walked between their houses imagining their lives together. They visited often and shared many moments.

This is my conclusion. It is an informative book which is great, but it may not help us to create actual music. I will try to keep my own imagination of Schumann and his stories. But it is a fun book to read!