Robert Schumann and the Music of the Future
Cellist Steven Isserlis re-appraises the music Schumann wrote in the last years of his life. Was it an inferior product of a declining mind or was it ahead of its time?
The music composed by Robert Schumann in the last years of his life has long been the subject of debate. That he ended up incarcerated in an asylum near Bonn is well known - but how has what we know of the life story impacted on the way the later music has been received? Undoubtedly different from his earlier music, to some it is clearly the product of a diseased mind and represents a tailing-off of creativity; others view these works as the fruits of a consciously new, and incredibly modern, compositional direction. Cellist Steven Isserlis has long been a passionate advocate of Schumann's late music and sets out to discover more about the forces that shaped it. With the help of conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner, pianists Graham Johnson and Andras Schiff, Schumann biographer John Worthen, writer and broadcaster Judith Chernaik, musicologist Laura Tunbridge, and composer Wolfgang Rihm, Isserlis finds a composer far more engaged with the world around him than is generally assumed, and someone for whom the future of German music was a burning concern.