Much of Robert Schumann’s (1810-1856) opus is a testament to the influence of literature on his life. The son of a book publisher and dealer, Schumann was heavily immersed in books during his youth and often reflected that in his repertoire, artfully creating a union between formal design and narrative. In composing Das Paradies und die Peri (1843), Schumann made his first efforts towards a most ambitious composition. The distinctive qualities of Peri—the telling of a fallen angel who seeks entrance to paradise—set it apart from other oratorios. Schumann aimed to create a secular work not meant for the chapel, blending various styles and genres to produce this twenty-six movement work that also served as his conducting debut.
Schumann began his musical journey early in life, learning the piano, flute, and cello as a child. When it came time to further his education, he instead set out for a career in law (at the behest of his father) with studies at the University of Leipzig. However, shortly after entering the university, he refocused his efforts back to music by taking up piano lessons with the renowned Friedrich Wieck. Unfortunately, injuries to his right hand in the 1830’s put an end to his aspirations to a concert pianist career. Thus forced to shift his attention to composition, Robert Schumann eventually became the composer widely recognized to this day: a giant of the Romantic era, one of the greatest composers in the history of Western civilization. In addition to his career as a composer, Schumann founded the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (New Journal for Music) establishing his reputation as an insightful and prolific critic.
Listen now to experience the grand oratorio that helped launch Schumann’s international reputation.
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Conducted by Leon Botstein, music director
Composed by Robert Schumann