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Why did Schumann go crazy?


Violinerrrz
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He could never accept the fact that the Professor could make Cars, Record Players, Telephones and Radios out of Coconuts, but he never learned to make a boat and save his fellow Castaways.

Or, in one of my Rare non-Sarcastic Ramblings:In 1852-3 his health and spirits deteriorated and he realized that he could not continue in his post. In 1854 he began to suffer hallucinations; he attempted suicide (he had always dreaded the possibility of madness) and entered an asylum, where he died in 1856, almost certainly of the effects of syphilis, cared for at the end by Clara and the young Brahms. (Got this off the Net)

[This message has been edited by DavidK (edited 06-08-2001).]

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If you listen, everything Brahms wrote has a tender little two -note descending motive that sounds like"Cla-ra" in it somewhere.

He and Clara went on a mountain-side picnic alone together, during Roberts' downward spiral. Schumann died soon thereafter. Something must have happened up there, for Clara never went out alone with Brahms again. Guilt for forbidden passion?

Brahms was to a great extent raised by the "scarlet women" in the bordellos that his father - and later Brahms - played music in. These women - like Clara- were older and maternally disposed to the young man.Later in life when he was world -famous, he would often greet and chat with streetwalkers as if they were old friends, horrifying the Viennese aristocrats and their wives who were enjoying an after dinner stroll with him through the fashionable avenues.

His life is full of wild and amusing anecdotes like these...

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I'm sure DavidK has it right. Same disease got Franz Schubert - and who knows how many others of the era who succumbed to mental illness before they died. Venerial diseases were certainly epidemic in those days - and there were no cures. It's likely the only ones who did not carry them were those who married very young, and perhaps, even they, only for a while.

"Morality" affects attitudes for more than it does instictive behavior.

Andy

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Brahms certainly had an infatuation with Clara, but I don't think that it was reciprocated (although... the mountain picnic is suspicious). The fact that his violin concerto was rejected has nothing to do with it (I don't think it was even published till he was thoroughly mad)... perhaps I'm wrong though. Poor Bob...

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Didn't Schumann go to the asylum before Clara met Brahms? Or pretty much at about the same time? In other ways, Schumann's insanity wasn't really caused in any way by Brahms' infatuation with Clara Schumann, was it?

Also: the question above mine about the violin concerto's publication 100 years after Schumann's death--is that true?

T.

PS: And considering Schumann's obsessive nature, such as in his obsession about his fourth finger, wasn't insanity setting in fairly early?

[This message has been edited by Theresa (edited 06-08-2001).]

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quote:

Originally posted by deStaunton:

If you listen, everything Brahms wrote has a tender little two -note descending motive that sounds like"Cla-ra" in it somewhere.

Sorry, deStaunton... this is a very beautiful story, but I`m not convinced. The termination you refer can be found in the work of countless composers, a lot of time before Clara Wieck/Schumann was born. Forgive my scepticism.

And about the supposed "triangle" involving Schumann, Clara, and Brahms, I don`t feel impressed about it either, in the same way I don`t feel impressed about Schumann`s "madness".

The biographies of all famous composers has been distorted by years, and love stories sells books( maybe a DNA of the so-called Brahms`son would "solve the mistery", like a soap-opera). I also believe that Schumann`s disease remains a mistery, and it was not just "madness".

If anyone wants to know more about Schumann`s mind, I suggest the violin sonatas( he wrote it in his last years). They are so beautiful that, if he was really mad, I can "forgive" him.

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Schumann composed two concerti for Joachim in the last year of his creative life (1853)-- the Concerto in d minor published posthumously, and the single-movement Fantasie Op. 131. Jelly d'Aranyi, Schumann's great-niece, resurrected the work for its first public performance (London, February 1938), but its structural weaknesses, uneven content and numerous miscalculations of solo writing and orchestration account for its neglect nowadays.

--take from The Cambridge Companion to the Violin

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I heard the drone in his head was an A.

Once he tried to kill himself by jumping into the river. The opening of Brahms' first piano concerto reflects Brahms' feelings when he found out.

Clara Schumann was the only woman Brahms really loved, and he couldn't have her (she fell for Robert's genius). It's said Brahms didn't have the greatest view of most other women because he grew up playing gigs in a whore house.

Schubert contracted syphilis in the early 20's, but I thought he died of typhoid. Or typhus.

quote:

...syphilis, cared for at the end by Clara and the young Brahms.

At least someone took care of his syphilis for him after he was gone, just like in Cavalleria Rusticana.

-Aman

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This whole thing with madness in the arts is certainly tragic. You have Vincent Van Gogh with his ear and who knows what torture went on in his mind. I personally, being an artist by profession, think that there is a tearing that is very consuming that goes on between creativity, dreaminess and what madness goes on in the real world. An artist is striving for beauty and gets rejection in the process and while this is normal it can also be very difficult on those who foster and live in the more sensitive world of the arts. It takes a balance that is learned more by some and less by others. Without great balance and a support system of family and friends being an artist can certainly lead to a destructive end. We can only suppose what difficulties Schumann suffered.

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Brahms wrote this to his publisher in reference to his Piano Quartet in C minor:

"You may place a picture on the title page, namely a head- with a pistol pointed at it. This will give you some idea of the music. I shall send you a photograph of myself for the purpose. Blue coat, yellow breeches, and top boots would do well."

Supposedly, the attire he cites in the last line of the quote is that of Werther, "Goethe's novelistic hero, who kills himself over a hopeless love for a friend's wife."

Also, Brahms is reported to have told Clara Schumann that the second movement of his First Piano Concerto is a portrait of her.

I got this information from The Vintage Guide to Classical Music by Jan Swafford.

[This message has been edited by prok3 (edited 06-08-2001).]

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"At least someone took care of his syphilis for him after he was gone, just like in Cavalleria Rusticana."

How do you take care of womeone's syphilis after they are gone? Pass it on?

Andy

Also the mental illnes that accompanies mid-end-stage syphilis, is an microorganism induced illness - what's this talk of "forgiving" someone for his insanity? Do we talk of forgiving people for cancer, TB, flu? etc.

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quote:

Originally posted by Andrew Victor:

"(...) - what's this talk of "forgiving" someone for his insanity? Do we talk of forgiving people for cancer, TB, flu? etc.

Andrew, I didn`t mean to "forgive" him literally, as if I were offended or something alike. What I wanted to say is: no matter if he was supposedly mad, his late works are really beautiful to me. Joachim said that these works( and the concerto) were "reflects of a sick mind", or something like it, what I think it`s very unfair, and possibly untrue.

Lymond, to me, it is a fact up to debate, and I will say why: the fact that he was kept on an asylum doesn`t convince me that he was mad, it just shows that people could not deal with him. If nowadays it`s very common to discover victims of bad diagnosis at mental institutions, I wonder that it could be much worse back then.

About the "symptoms"( attempt of suicide, violent behavior, hearing allucinations, talks with "dead" people like Schubert and Mendelssohn, etc.), not one of them convinces me, because: 1) very sophisticated( elitist) people may find difficult to accept minor deviations of behavior, even today. 2) historically, those morbid talks were much more common that we can commonly imagine, and even today, a lot of people who believe in that kind of conversation is socially accepted and even admired, no matter if science endorses it or not... and he was from the "mal du siècle" generation, with a noticed obsession with death.

We can observe that composers like Berlioz, Chopin, Beethoven, Liszt( Schumann had an obsession with 4th finger, Liszt tried to cut his hands with a razor to reach more notes), and many others also did very "excentrical" things, but only Schumann carries the "he was mad" label.

We also need to remember that a lot of "biographical information" of that kind can be apochryphal.

To me, that`s a huge possibility that his internation was due to a bad relationship with Clara, and I assume that no one of them was morally perfect. I mean, maybe he did something condemnable( being phisically violent is a reasonable suspect), and a little disturbed( but not at a really psicotic one), what ended with the internation in some way.

Hey, maybe I could have been Schumann`s attourney! smile.gif

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Locatelli, very well said.

On a side note, didn't Schumann submit himself into the asylum?

Remember, sanity is conformity to what is socially accepted. Through his actions, Schumann choose to go against the accepted ‘object reality’. In a book by Robert M. Pirsig; Lila, the author states:

Obviously, no culture wants its legal patterns violated, and when they are, an immune system takes over in ways that are analogous to a biological immune system. The deviant dangerous source of illegal cultural patterns is first identified, then isolated and finally destroyed as a cultural entity. That’s what mental hospitals are for. And also heresy trials. They protect the culture from foreign ideas that if allowed to grow unchecked could destroy the culture itself. (Pirsig 376)

There is always the possibility that the world was not ready to hear and accept what Schumann had to say. Primary examples being his later works i.e. violin sonata and the 'lost' cello romances. As long as Schumann lived in the society that he did, his only choice was to conform to the social patterns around him, or not to conform at all. He choose to follow his own will, which is what makes society call him insane.

But the fact of whether or not he was really "insane" can be up for debate. If you ask me, he wasn't crazy; but then again, I could be crazy myself if the majority thinks so...

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I agree. The state of Schumanns' head will always be subject for debate. Many if not all mystics, advanced thinkers and highly evolved beings utterly clash with the herd-like societal norms. ***** , Buddha, Paganini, Wagner... the list is endless.

I have wondered if - when Robert was tortured by endless hours of " music performed by hellish demons, from **** itself" - he was in some multidimensional state, hearing punk rock, or something. Time is only a human concept. Many Native peoples have no concept , need, or even a word for this limited slant on the infinite cosmos.

If anyone does some serious musicological research, the idea that Brahms harbored a lifelong , unrequited love for Clara becomes irrefutable. {Prok3, that's a good clue you provide, from Brahms himself!} He never moved far from her. The deeper you dig, the clearer this truth is presented.Furthermore, the descending tritone that seems to moan lamentingly "Cla-ra," is in everything that he wrote (after being discovered by Schumann).The intervalic relationship may change, but the duple descending figure can always, always be found.

For example: Viola Sonata in E flat Major - viola part, second measure - there it is!

Whatever your take, you must admit these are surely notes of a tender, loving nature.

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How many of us are on this board are a little bit mad? Have our own heads screwed on backwards? Feel like round pegs in square holes? Walk to the beat of different drummer?

Are fascinated with all forms of insanity because the insanity is a reflection of us?

And while I'm wondering this, I'll throw this in: the best music is that which is emotive. How is it we can turn on a dime in our expressiveness--move from thundering victory to melancholy within the framework of one work? How can we do that, feel that, believe that if we're not a little bit mad? And how can our hearts bear this tossing into the air of great emotions at such great speeds?

Good point made about the time in which Schumann lived and the view of insanity versus the constraints of culture. From an even earlier period I think of Poor Patrick Henry's wife in that small room in his basement here in Virginia--one small room, seclusion, madness. What really was going on there? And history has it that he was devoted to her in spite of her madness.

Sometimes the mind is a beastly trap--just examine your dreams sometimes with icy rationale.

For me: the heart is the best governor of truth. The mind is always suspect.

T.

[This message has been edited by Theresa (edited 06-10-2001).]

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quote:

Originally posted by Theresa:

How many of us are on this board are a little bit mad? Have our own heads screwed on backwards? Feel like round pegs in square holes? Walk to the beat of different drummer?

edited by Theresa

I've always thought there was a fine line between genius and insanity. I've known one or two people I thought were true geniuses and they were, well, a bit odd and usually socially awkward. That's why I hate to see the proliferation of drugs like Paxil that want to make everyone the same, i.e., "ordinary".

Now I know that Paxil et. al. help some people but if the Pharmaceutical Cos had their way a child would be getting these drugs at the first display of shyness, such as hiding behind his mother on the first day of school (I do graphics work for a major Pharm Co. and I know their insidiousness).

Brahms, Schumann, Beethoven - all those guys would be on Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft if they were alive today. How many creative geniuses today are being squelched by the pleasant hum of ordinary? We need shy people! We need those people that can solve major engineering problems but can't remember to change their clothes! We need nerds!

I think you need to be able to see the world a bit differently in order to be creative.

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I agree with the opinion that a super intelligent and artistic person doesn't just go mad.

The average "normal" person doesn't have the slightest imagination about or ability to cope with a small bit of what some highly talented people have to cope with.

The highly talented person has to actually live out his elevated state every momment of his life, and produce what for anyone else is impossible. It's not just a gift which embodies him. It's a tremendous burden, which if he doesn't live out, he is destroyed by his own energy.

Not only can't he rest from it, but he must refine it more and more as he matures and sees new problems in life and discovers deeper things within himself, and many deeper truths.

All this is true,even without the actual complications off disease affecting the brain.

Off course, any ilness is extremely difficult when it starves creativity. One should believe in, and trust in G-d, in fact.

S.Taylor

S.Taylor

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