Robert Schumann was a German Romantic composer best known for his piano music, songs (lieder), and orchestral music. Many of his best-known piano works were composed for his wife, Clara Schumann, a pianist. Schumann's father was a printer and bookseller. The boy attended a private school for four years before enrolling in the Zwickau Gymnasium (high school) in 1820 and remaining there for eight years. At the age of six, he started his musical education by learning to play the piano. In 1827, he was influenced musically by Austrian composer Franz Schubert and literarily by German poet Jean Paul Richter, and he wrote several songs in the same year.
Schumann dropped out of school in 1828 and, under family strain, enrolled as a law student at the University of Leipzig. However, at Leipzig, he spent his time composing songs, improvising on the organ, and composing novels rather than studying law. He learned the piano seriously for a few months with a renowned tutor, Friedrich Wieck, and met Wieck's nine-year-old daughter Clara, a genius pianist. She was only starting a promising concert career at the time.
He left Leipzig for Heidelberg in the summer of 1829. There, he composed waltzes in the style of Franz Schubert, which he later included in his piano cycle Papillons (Opus 2; 1829–31), and diligently practiced in the hopes of abandoning law and becoming a virtuoso pianist—resulting in his mother agreeing to allow him to return to Leipzig in October 1830 to study for a trial period with Wieck, who thought highly of his talent but questioned his stability.
The Abegg Variations for piano, Schumann's Opus 1, was written in 1831. An injury to one of his right hand's fingertips, which ended his dreams of a future as a virtuoso, was perhaps not an unmitigated tragedy since it forced him to concentrate on music. This was a time of prolific composition for Schumann in piano works, written either immediately or later in updated forms. The piano cycles Papillons and Carnaval (1833–35) and Études symphoniques (1834–37; Symphonic Studies), another piece consisting of a series of variations, were among them.
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