Robert Schumann (1810 - 1856), a great German romantic composer, was born in
1810 in Zwickau to a family of a bookseller. His love for music developed rather
early; he played piano and made attempts to compose; although he sometimes
disregarded the principles of musical composition, his pieces were rather
remarkable for his age. He took great interest in literature; he was especially
enthusiastic about Goethe, Schiller, and Byron, as well as Greek tragic poets;
later on, he got inspired by works by Hoffmann and Jean Paul. After his father's
death in 1826, he bent to his mother's wishes and became a law student at the
Leipzig University in 1828 and later in University of Heidelberg (1829), though
he still dedicated much time to music. In 1830, Schumann finally abandoned the
University, returning to Leipzig for musical studies with Friedrich Wieck.
His piano career, however, came to a stop; a mechanical device he had built to
strengthen his 4th finger seriously injured his hand. However, he continued to
compose. Among the works of that time are Papillons and Abegg Variations.
In 1834, in collaboration with several friends including Friedrich Wieck,
Schumann founded a music journal, Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik. The journal became
an embodiment of his dream of an artists' union, inspired by the idea of purity
and a new romantic spirit (he called it "Davidsbund" after "men of David"
corporations in medieval Germany). The imaginary league of artists fighting
against the surrounding philistines with their banality and shallowness remained
an important idea for Schumann. For ten years, he was the journal's editor and
leading writer. Schumann was a brilliant critic, profound and perceptive; in his
reviews, he drew attention to many promising musicians, Chopin, Berlioz and
Brahms among them. It was in Schumann's literary work where his idealistic
imaginary personalities, Florestan and Eusebius, first appeared. Florestan
represented the active, impetuous side of his creator's character, while
Eusebius expressed his lyrical side. Both figures appeared not only in
Schumann's essays, but also in his music, just as it happened with “Men of
In 1830-1840, Schumann composed piano works; among the compositions of that
period were Carnival, Davidsbundlertanze, Symphonic Etudes, Fantasie,
In the middle thirties, Schumann fell in love with Wieck's daughter Clara, a
talented pianist. Friedrich was strongly opposed to their marriage, and for
several years Robert and Clara struggled for their right to marry. Finally, they
had to fight against Friedrich in court. They got married in 1840.
On the year of his marriage, Schumann concentrated mostly on vocal music: he
composed more than 130 songs, including his most famous cycles Dichterliebe
(Poet's Love) and Frauenliebe und -leben (A Woman's Love and Life). But later,
he had turned to symphony music, composing in 1841 two symphonies (the First
Symphony and Symphony in D minor known as the Fourth), Ouverture, Scherzo and
Finale, and the first movement of the Piano concerto. In 1842, his interest laid
in the sphere of chamber music, when he had created three string quartets, a
piano quartet and a piano quintet.
The works of the middle of forties were composed in a "struggle of the creative
spirit with the destructive forces of the disease", as Schumann described it
himself while talking about his Second Symphony.
Clara and Robert made several concert tours - in Russia in 1844, in Prague,
Berlin and Vienna in 1846-47; in 1851-53 they appeared in Switzerland and in
Belgium. Robert went through a severe depression, but later he was active again,
finishing his opera Genoveva, composing the First movement to Faust, and
Ouverture and Music to Manfred.
In that period, Schumann's interests turned to more monumental forms and genres;
he aspired to classical structures though his personality expressed itself much
better in romantic miniatures and cycles of fantastic pieces.
In the end of his life, Schumann's emotional instability increased. He had to
change places several times; in 1854, he attempted suicide, throwing himself
into Rhine; he was rescued by some boatmen and taken to an asylum where he
stayed until his death in 1856.
Kreisleriana, one of Schumann's most famous and beautiful works, was composed in
1838. The name of the work comes from conductor Johannes Kreisler, a character
from the works of E.T.A. Hoffmann. Schumann was greatly attracted by Kreisler's
brilliant though paradoxical personality.
In the eight pieces of this grand cycle with their dramatic contrasts (sometimes
recalling characters of Florestan and Eusebius), like in many other works,
Schumann is like a novelist, embodying the subtle nuances and shades of the
man's mood, human passions and dreams.
Kreisleriana is dedicated to Frederic Chopin.
Dramatic contrasts are also characteristic for Fantasiestucke, op. 12 (1837).
Des Abends (Evening), full of dreaminess, an embodiment of the languid side of
Schumann's personality is followed by the agitated Aufschwung (Soaring) -
Florestan appears on stage. Warum? (Why?) is a kind of philosophic meditation
filled with tenderness - Eusebius comes into light again.
Grillen (Whims) is full of humor. In der Nacht (In the night) is a mysterious
and dramatic picture of the night, with a beautiful lyrical theme in the middle
section. The piece was inspired by the legend about Hero and Leander. It is
followed by a colorful Fabel (Fable), full of humor and bright contrasts.
Traumeswirren (Dreamtwine) resembles a fantastic dance, gracious and elegant.
Ende vom Lied (The end of the song) starts like a majestic march; a beautiful
coda, profound and meditative yet emotional, becomes a kind of a "summing up"
and concludes the whole cycle.
Hyekyung Lee, born in Wonju, Korea in 1959 began to play piano at the age of 6.
After winning several national music competitions, she had her first public
concert with Seoul Sinfonietta Orchestra in 1970, and 4 years later became the
soloist for the foundation concert of Korea Jeunesse Musicale Orchestra.
Entering Folkwang Music College in Essen, Germany in 1975, she subsequently won
the DAAD German government scholarship, the Folkwang Prize Competition and the
nationwide German Music College Union Competition.
Transferring to Muenchen Music College, she graduated with top marks in 1981.
During 2 years of graduate school, she gave recitals, performed for various
radio programs and earned the Bach Prize at Vianna da Motta International
Competition in Lisbon.
In 1984, Miss Lee returned home to teach at Chung-Ang University as a professor.
Today, Hyekyung Lee is recognized as one of Korea’s outstanding musicians with
her wide concert repertoires from baroque to contemporary. In 1984 she received
the 'Critic's Prize' from the Korea Music Pen Club. In 1988 she was selected as
'Musician of the Year' by Dong-A music magazine. In 1993 she received the 'Korea
Music Award' from the Korea Music Society. In 2004 she received the 'Seoul Music
Prize' from the Korea Music Critic Association.
Hyekyung Lee has performed at Kennedy Center and Lincoln Center in USA, in
Sydney, Vienna, Moscow, Tokyo, Manila and with the Ulster Orchestra in Northern
Ireland. In Korea she plays regularly with the Korea Philharmonic Orchestra and
the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra. She has also performed chamber music with the
Colorado String Quartet, the New Budapest String Quartet, flautists Patrick
Galloy and Maxence Larrieu, trumpeter Stephen Burns, Korea’s top violinist Dong-Suk
Kang and the Korean traditional drum quartet Samulnori, among many others. Miss
Lee's career has also brought her in contact with many fine conductors,
including Vakhtang Jordania, Bernhard Gueller, Barry Wordsworth, Sandro
Suturello and Yan Pascal Tortelier.