Robert Alexander Schumann was born in the small riverside town of Zwickau, Saxony, in 1810.The youngest of five children, Robert Schumann was brought up in comfortable, middle-class respectability. As a child, he apparently exhibited no remarkable abilities.
At the age of six, Robert was sent to the local preparatory school, run by Archdeacon Dohner. He had in fact already begun his education, with the young tutor who gave lessons in exchange for board and lodging at the Schumann home.
At the age of seven Robert received his first piano lessons, from Johann Gottfried Kuntzsch, organist at St. Mary's Church, and schoolmaster at the Zwickau Lyceum. Kuntzsch was a kindly, conservative musician of limited abilities; his knowledge stemmed from leisure-time study. Nevertheless, Robert was soon improvising, and even composing a set of dances for the piano.
Robert's musical talent was recognized by his father. He bought an expensive Streicher grand piano for his son, and soon four-handed arrangements of the classics were heard in the Schumann home. With a friend named Friedrich Piltzing, another pupil of Kuntzch's, Robert started to explore Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.
As a child, Schumann took part in several concerts at the Zwickau Lyceum. He once played Moscheles' Alexander March variations, which demanded considerable dexterity.
At the public Lyceum Robert was active as both pianist and public speaker. When he was fourteen, Kuntzsch decided that his pupil had progressed beyond the point where he could give further help, and declined to teach him anymore.
Shortly before leaving the Lyceum, Schumann collaborated with his brother Karl in preparing a new edition of Forcellini's Latin dictionary, Lexicon Totius Latinatinis.
Although now very busy as a composer, Robert yearned for affection. He soon fell for seventeen-year-old Ernestine von Fricken, who came to Leipzig in April 1834 to live in at the Wiecks', and to study with Clara's...