Music Robert Schumann
Laura Tunbridge
  • LAST REVIEWED: 17 February 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 June 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0067


The compositions and critical writings of Robert Schumann (b. 1810–d. 1856) brought together musical and literary German Romanticism. Although now best known for his songs and piano music Schumann also wrote symphonies, concertos, chamber music, oratorios, melodrama, and opera. Interpretations of his works are often informed by his biography, especially his relationships with other musicians (e.g., his wife Clara and Johannes Brahms) and his medical history. Debate continues over possible diagnoses of his final illness and the impact of his health on his creative life. Emerging archival research, reception studies, and new editions of his music and writings are changing the face of Schumann studies. A more complex picture of the composer’s standing in his time and since is encouraging reassessment of his achievements, particularly works from his later years. Inevitably there is a great deal of German-language scholarship on Schumann, a selection of which is included here.

General Overviews

There are many overviews of Schumann’s life and works, many of which are overtly romanticized. The versions included here are among the most recent (excepting Dahlhaus 1991, still one of the best overviews), and valuable for their comprehensive coverage and critical stances toward received ideas. Daverio 1997 and Geck 2010 provide new perspectives on the various stages of Schumann’s career. Loos 2005 introduces each work individually. Tadday 2006 and Perrey 2007, in German and English respectively, deal with Schumann’s music by genre and consider key issues such as the composer’s 20th-century reception. Tibbetts 2010 collates interviews to illustrate recent attitudes among scholars and performers.

  • Dahlhaus, Carl. Nineteenth-Century Music. Translated by J. Bradford Robinson. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.

    This magisterial overview of 19th-century music history provides background on Schumann and his contemporaries as well as trenchant observations on particular works and aesthetic concerns. Originally published as Die Musik des 19. Jahrhunderts. Laaber, Germany: Laaber Verlag, 1980.

  • Daverio, John. Robert Schumann: Herald of a “New Poetic Age.” New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

    This has become the standard life and works in English. It provides an engaging account of Schumann’s biography and also introduces key issues surrounding the interpretation of his works. In particular, Daverio promotes Schumann as a “literary composer.” The book also emphasises the achievements of Schumann’s later career.

  • Geck, Martin. Robert Schumann: Mensch und Musiker der Romantik. Munich: Siedler Verlag, 2010.

    The most recent German-language life and works that intersperses the biography with “Intermezzi” on broader issues such as Schumann’s literary interests and politics.

  • Loos, Helmut, ed. Robert Schumann. Interpretations seiner Werke. 2 vols. Laaber, Germany: Laaber Verlag, 2005.

    A multiauthor German-language collection, which provides brief introductions to every Schumann opus and a good, mostly German-language, bibliography.

  • Perrey, Beate, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Schumann. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

    A multiauthor English-language collection, which considers Schumann’s music by genre as well as providing chapters on his biography and reception. Ideal for undergraduates.

  • Tadday, Ulrich, ed. Schumann Handbuch. Kassel, Germany: Bärenreiter, 2006.

    A multiauthor German language collection of essays that includes a consideration of recent tendencies in Schumann scholarship, sections on the composer’s aesthetics, overviews of his work in different genres, and his reception. Recommended for its snapshots of key works and issues.

  • Tibbetts, John C. Schumann: A Chorus of Voices. New York: Amadeus, 2010.

    Tibbetts has spent years gathering interviews by performers and scholars of Schumann’s music, which have been presented partly as a fifteen-part radio documentary (see The World of Robert Schumann) and, in expanded form, in this book. Both provide an overview of Schumann’s career and some insight into how he is perceived today.

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