The Great German Composers eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 175 pages of information about The Great German Composers.

The third and finest art-method, as applied by Schubert to lyric music, is the “declamatory.”  In this form we detect the consummate flower of the musical lyric.  The vocal part is lifted into a species of passionate chant, full of dramatic fire and color, while the accompaniment, which is extremely elaborate, furnishes a most picturesque setting.  The genius of the composer displays itself here fully as much as in the vocal treatment.  When the lyric feeling rises to its climax it expresses itself in the crowning melody, this high tide of the music and poetry being always in unison.  As masterpieces of this form may be cited “Die Stadt” and “Der Erlkoenig,” which stand far beyond any other works of the same nature in the literature of music.


Robert Schumann, the loving critic, admirer, and disciple of Schubert in the province of song, was in most respects a man of far different type.  The son of a man of wealth and position, his mind and tastes were cultivated from early youth with the utmost care.  Schumann is known in Germany no less as a philosophical thinker and critic than as a composer.  As the editor of the Neue Zeitschrift fuer Musik, he exercised a powerful influence over contemporary thought in art-matters, and established himself both as a keen and incisive thinker and as a master of literary style.  Schumann was at first intended for the law, but his unconquerable taste for music asserted itself in spite of family opposition.  His acquaintance with the celebrated teacher Wieck, whose gifted daughter Clara afterward became his wife, finally established his career; for it was through Wieck’s advice that the Schumann family yielded their opposition to the young man’s bent.

Once settled in his new career, Schumann gave himself up to work with the most indefatigable ardor.  The early part of the present century was a halcyon time for the virtuosi, and the fame and wealth that poured themselves on such players as Paganini and Liszt made such a pursuit tempting in the extreme.  Fortunately, the young musician was saved from such a career.  In his zeal of practice and desire to attain a perfectly independent action for each finger on the piano, Schumann devised some machinery, the result of which was to weaken the sinews of his third finger by undue distention.  By this he lost the effective use of the whole right hand, and of course his career as a virtuoso practically closed.

Music gained in its higher walks what it lost in a lower.  Schumann devoted himself to composition and aesthetic criticism, after he had passed through a thorough course of preparatory studies.  Both as a writer and a composer Schumann fought against Philistinism in music.  Ardent, progressive, and imaginative, he soon became the leader of the romantic school, and inaugurated the crusade which had its parallel in France in that carried on by Victor Hugo in the

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The Great German Composers from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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