Sunday, March 12, 2006

Why are we celebrating Mozart, but not Schumann?

Norman Lebrecht comments the lack of interest in a Schumann anniversary:
Let's not be naive about this. Jowly Robert Schumann with his hangdog eyes is never going to sell as many marzipan boxes as the Wolf Gang, nor does any of his music fall as easily on the ear as the Amadeus soundtrack or the special-offer i-Tunes site. Where Mozart mints money, Schumann hints at suicide.
I wonder if this is a correct analysis. Maybe the market strategy for selling music to a mass audience can't count on success if the ads are centred on unpleasant facts in a composer's life - or his death. But, aren't celebrity scandals and unhappiness the very things that the public is interested in hearing more about? Are we admiring WAM today at the anniversary celebrating of his short life for the pleasantness of it - a short but happy and successful life in music - or are we secretly or openly admiring his dark sides, and are relieved that we are not sick and unhappy creative geniuses like WAM? Or, if I may introduce a little blasphemy: is he (and other "great artists", like Robert Schumann) worshipped as our musical saviour, who sacrificed himself?

Jessica Duchen has written an article in The Independent with some interesting new facts and opinions about Robert and Clara Schumann.

3 comments:

A said...

To answer the original question of why so little celebration of Schumann compared to WAM, apart from the deeper analysis, WAM is overall more popular and accessible to the uneducated listener. It's easy to put on a Mozart birthday concert with works that a person who doesn't own a classical CD would recognize, but could you really do the same for Schumann? Doubtful.

Andrew Lowe-Watson said...

As some of you will know, I have a Mozart 'problem'. I find some of his music pessimistic and depressing. It can also be wonderfully heart-warming, too, I know, as Bernard Hughes pointed out when he referred to the 'gentle zephyrs' trio from Cosi. Another favourite moment is when Pamina and Tamino are re-united after their separation in 'Die Zauberflöte', and the choral works 'Mass in C Minor' and 'Ave Verum Corpus'. This is music of the deepest humanity and understanding.

By contrast Schumann can seem almost adolescent in his obessions and desperate unrequited passions, though it is music that speaks to the fifteen-year old in me. I love the Intermezzo from "Faschingswank Aus Wien'', all surging energy and plunging bass lines. He too can be touching on a more adult level, in songs such as the end of the 'Frauenlieb und Leben ' cycle or ' Mondnacht'. These are about stillness and 'finding yourself' , not exactly qualiies and concerns normally associated with lunatics.

MaLj said...

A very interesting and insightful and musical comment, Andrew!