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Pre-concert lecture script for the Rochester Symphony

Robert Schumann Piano Concerto in a minor
P. I. Tchaikovsky Symphony #5

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. My name is Julie Metz

The concert this evening is called “Romantic Favorites,” as you know, but I think it really should be called “19th Century Psychosis.” I have been studying and living with these two mad geniuses, Schumann and Tchaikovsky for as long as I’ve been playing my violin, 32 years. These two romantic composers par excellence, shared many a theme in common. Both studied law, decided it was not for them and took the plunge in their twenties to become composers. Later in life, through their own separate neurosis and psychosis, both tried to drown themselves in a river. Schumann because he kept hearing an A natural in his head and Tchaikovsky because he got married. Schumann did ultimately die in an insane asylum. By the way, what is the minor key of this piano concerto? You guessed it, A minor. While Schumann was in the asylum, spending his last days pouring over maps, Tchaikovsky was busy shredding his latest composition, whatever that might be, thinking that it was just not good enough. He felt that the Nutcracker was such a piece.

Robert Schumann was born in 1820. His greatest passions when he was growing up were playing the piano and reading the classics from such authors as: Schiller, Goethe, and Jean Paul Richter. He often gave this advice to young musicians: “Rest from your musical studies by industrially reading the poets. Often take exercise out into the open.” Life changed dramatically when his father died. Robert was only sixteen and his mother who saw music as the “breadless art,” decided that Robert should enroll as a law student. For four years he went to law school still practicing his piano and taking lessons from the master piano teacher, Fredrich Wieck. However, a decision had to be made. “My life” Schumann wrote, “has been a struggle between poetry and pose, or if you prefer, between music and law.” These “ice-cold definitions will crush the life out of me.” Thankfully the piano won out.

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