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Robert Schumann


Though he struggled with drinking, depression, and venereal disease, a single sentence in Robert Schumann's diary on May 8, 1832, signals the German-born composer's tragic demise as a pianist: "The third [finger] is coming on reasonably well through the use of the cigar mechanism." While the mysterious mechanism wrecked havoc on his hand, the loss of Schumann's performance career may have enabled his broader contributions to the romantic era, not only as a composer, but as the co-founder and music writer in the influential journal Neue Zeitschrift für Musik. Born in Zwickau, Germany, on June 8, 1810, he took lessons with Friedrich Wieck while attending law school in Zurich and married Weick's prodigiously talented daughter, Clara. After losing the ability to perform, Schumann gravitated to works for intimate ensemble; highlights can be found in his short works for piano, stunning piano quintet, and remarkable song cycles, which embody the poetic goals of the romantic ideal. After he began to suffer hallucinations in 1854, he attempted suicide and was institutionalized in Endenich, where he died two years later in the care of his wife and young Brahms.
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