Robert Schumann is considered the grand master of romantic music. Some of his early piano pieces and many of his songs still move a wide audience today. It is little known that the composer Schumann almost became a lawyer. On 8. June 1810 he was born.
Like Mozart, Robert Schumann was considered a musical prodigy who, like his Salzburg counterpart, composed and gave piano recitals under his father’s tutelage at the age of six. At the same time, the young Schumann also developed literary skills, which he brought to bear, among other things, as the author of biographical portraits for his father August Schumann’s publishing house. His fervent devotion to the works of Jean Paul, along with extensive studies of the French language, marked his youth and seemed to pave the way not only for a musical but also for a literary career.
When his father died unexpectedly in 1826, Schumann’s mother and guardian were faced with the question of what career path the multi-talented boy should take. It was decided that Robert Schumann "should study jurisprudence".
Between law studies and piano lessons
Soon after graduating from high school in the spring of 1828, the young Schumann moved to Leipzig to study law. He reported quite differently about the everyday life of his studies at that time. While he wrote to his mother that he "regularly and mechanically attends the colleges", Schumann was not allowed to attend the law school He told a friend towards the end of the first semester that he had "not yet attended a college, but rather played the piano exclusively to have.
During a musical soiree, Schumann met the music pedagogue Friedrich Wieck and for the first time heard his then nine-year-old daughter Clara – an exceptional pianist – play the piano. Impressed by Clara’s extraordinary musicality and masterful technique, Schumann spontaneously became Wieck’s piano student.
In May 1829, Schumann transferred to the law faculty in Heidelberg, where law teachers such as Karl Joseph Anton Mittermaier and Anton Friedrich Justus Thibaut were active at that time. It must have seemed like a coincidence to Schumann that these two eminent jurists were also music lovers. A private relationship developed with both law teachers, which found its basis primarily in music.
"I feel the true dignity of jurisprudence"
In addition to his law studies, Schumann regularly devoted six to seven hours a day to his own piano playing. He wrote to his mother in July 1829: "The Jus tastes excellent to me with Thibaut and Mittermaier and only now do I feel the true dignity of jurisprudence, as it promotes all the sacred interests of mankind."
A year later, it was Thibaut who tipped the scales when he told Schumann that he was "not born of heaven to be a magistrate" had been. Schumann then turned to his mother and asked to be allowed to devote himself entirely to music in the future. "My whole life", According to Schumann, "was a twenty-year struggle between poetry and prose, or call it music and law. Now I stand at the crossroads and I shudder at the question: Where to?? If I follow my genius, it leads me to art, and I believe, to the right path."
After Friedrich Wieck, who had been consulted, predicted a brilliant musical future for Schumann, mother and guardian agreed to Schumann’s abandonment of his law studies.
What followed has long since become music history.
The sued marriage
The composer Robert Schumann only had to deal with the law once in his life, when it was necessary to be able to marry the minor Clara Wieck.
The love for the young pianist was ignited in 1836, but was fought by Friedrich Wieck with all means. Wieck, the manager of his daughter, who was by then successful in the international concert circuit, feared that marriage to Schumann would mean the end of her career as a pianist. And Wieck assumed that Clara’s meanwhile accumulated fortune would be completely consumed by the marital household. Wieck knew Schumann’s lifestyle and his weak financial situation, from which he concluded that the composer could hardly fill the role of the family breadwinner.
Wieck therefore temporarily prevented any contact between the lovers and even threatened to shoot Schumann if he ever came before his eyes again. He also spread slander against the couple everywhere. Before Clara’s concerts, he wrote letters to the organizers, claiming that his daughter played miserably and, moreover, ruined every grand piano!
In the end, only the legal way out remained open, and so it came about through a petition by Robert Schumann from the 16th century. July 1839 at the Leipzig High Court of Appeal in one of the most famous trials in the history of music. The lawsuit was aimed at either getting Clara’s father to consent to the marriage or to obtain consent ex officio. The court granted consent with effect from 11. August 1840 finally the consent ex officio.
On 12. September 1840, the couple married in the village church of Schonefeld near Leipzig, Germany.
The tragic end
After working in Leipzig and Dresden, Schumann became municipal music director in Dusseldorf in 1850, but had to resign there three years later for health reasons (nerve disease). In mid-February 1854, his health deteriorated; he began to experience auditory hallucinations. Finally, he tried to escape by jumping into the Rhine River on 27. February to commit suicide. On 4. March, Robert Schumann was admitted to a private sanatorium in Endenich near Bonn, where, after agonizing suffering, he died two and a half years later, on 29. July 1856, died.
Author Jurgen Seul lives as a freelance journalist and editor in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany. He wrote numerous publications u. a. on architectural law, labor law, and legal history topics.