Schumann - A Chorus of Voices
Some books are speedy reads. A few stolen hours here or there and then it is finished, more often than not to be forgotten before the end of one’s next read. Other books are meatier and more thought provoking. These diamonds in the rough take some time to peruse. Read a little. Think a little. Rinse. Repeat.
Such is the nature of John C. Tibbetts’s latest release, Schumann: A Chorus of Voices. Tibbetts’s subject is Robert Schumann, husband to Clara, and the composer of great works such as “Carnaval.” In this bicentennial year of Schumann’s birth, Tibbetts discusses the man with everyone who ever maybe even thought about the composer. Some are famous musicians, like Emmanuel Ax or András Schiff. Others are simply experts in their related fields.
For example, as a renowned psychotherapist, John M. MacGregor studies insanity and how it applies to artists and musicians (imminently applicable with Robert Schumann). Tibbetts interviewed his colleagues over the course of the past 30 years. A few have passed on since their discussion with Tibbetts, leaving only their theories behind to enlighten us. A lifetime of Schumann study, compiled here for our enjoyment.
A Chorus of Voices is interesting because not only do the interviewees usually know of each others’ work, but sometimes they disagree. Usually pleasantly and professionally, of course, but there is still an academic element of one-up-manship simmering in the background. A small bit of repetition occurs and is unavoidable—due to the nature of the construction of the book. Put three Schumann experts in a room and three separate Schumann theories are bound to emerge. And yet all three theories will have certain similarities due to the unchangeable facts of Schumann’s existence.
This is a fairly advanced work and most Schumann neophytes will probably feel bogged down in all the intimate details of both the music and his life. In order to provide guidance, Tibbetts included a CD with nine tracks featuring portions of Schumann’s works, as well short lectures from renowned pianists Jose Feghali and Ronald Brautigam. The music is a good companion to the book—putting the reader in a more solid Schumann state of mind.
This 500-page tome definitely takes some work to get through, but it is worth every minute spent turning the pages—especially if you are a fan of Robert Schumann, his life, his music, and the people who loved him.