Saturday, March 27, 2010

Me and Robert Schumann: On Being an Average Student

The following is adapted from a biography of the nineteenth-century German composer, Robert Schumann.

"At school he was an average student," recalls an elementary school classmate of mine, "rather dreamy and inattentive. But what soon struck me about him was the absolute certainty in his own mind that one day he would become famous. In what he would be famous -- that had yet to be determined -- but famous whatever the circumstances." The "dreamy and inattentive" side of my personality -- the romantic and impractical visionary -- has been broadly affirmed by those who knew me. My ambition has been all but forgotten.

If a passing reference on Seinfeld is a measure of fame, then, indeed, Schumann became famous!

From The Seinfeld Episode, The Jacket:

[Setting: Jerry's apartment]

(George enters singing "Master Of the House" - a Les Miserables show tune)

GEORGE: "Master of the house.. doling out the charm, ready with a handshake and an open palm. Tells a saucy tale, loves to make a stir everyone appreciates a . . . "

JERRY: What is that song?

GEORGE: Oh, it's from Les Miserables. I went to see it last week. I can't get it out of my head. I just keep singing it over and over. It just comes out. I have no control over it. I'm singing it on elevators, buses. I sing it in front of clients. It's taking over my life.

JERRY: You know, Schumann went mad from that.

GEORGE: Artie Schumann? From Camp Hatchapee?

JERRY: No, you idiot.

GEORGE: What are you, Bud Abbott? What, are you calling me an idiot?

JERRY: You don't know Robert Schumann? The composer?

GEORGE: Oh, Schumann. Of course.

JERRY: (Trying to scare George) He went crazy from one note. He couldn't get it out of his head. I think it was an A. He kept repeating it over and over again. He had to be institutionalized.


Gary Freedman said...

Schumann had often thought of trying to kill himself. In February 1854 he threw himself into the river Rhine. He was rescued and admittted to an asylum where he spent the last two years of his life. He died on 29 July 1856.

Schumann’s mental illness made life tough for his wife Clara. When Schumann was admitted to an asylum at Endenich, their close family friend Brahms was allowed to visit him but Clara was not. She was able to support Robert in his lunatic asylum and their seven children growing up in three separate towns. Its said that Schumann children inherited his mental illness – among other diseases they suffered from -- schizophrenia.

Gary Freedman said...

A reference on Seinfeld. Wow! Schumann became famous, all right!