10. Last works

17.02.1854 Schumann, suffering from auditory hallucinations, believes he hears angels dictating a theme to him.

22/23.02.1854 He starts to write variations on the theme.

27.02.1854 2.00 pm He attempts to drown himself in the Rhine but is rescued by a bargeman.

28.02.1854 He returns to writing the variations and gets as far as variation five (see Geistervariationen below). Clara, on the advice of a doctor, has left to stay with friends.

04.03.1854 He commits himself to the asylum in Endenich where he spends the final two years of his life.

Robert Schumann 1810-1856
Clara Schumann 1819-1896
Clara outlived her husband by forty years.

Taking advice from Brahms and Joachim, Clara suppressed some of Robert’s final works which, due to his mental illness, they viewed as inferior. Were they right? You can listen to two of the most (in)famous examples below:

Robert Schumann:
Violin Concerto in d

In kräftigem, nicht zu schnellem Tempo (00:25)
Langsam (14:48)
Lebhaft, doch nicht schnell (19:57)

(Encore: J.S.Bach – Andante from Sonata for Solo Violin in A minor (31:21))


… and this is the theme – followed by his variations on it – that Robert heard the angels dictating:

Robert Schumann:

[Ghost Variations]

Two performances: the first by Piotr Anderszewski; the second by Igor Levit:

00:00 – Theme
02:01 – Var.1
03:31 – Var.2
05:11 – Var.3, Etwas belebter (“somewhat livelier”)
06:50 – Var.4
08:58 – Var.5

11:11 – Theme
13:01 – Var.1
14:28 – Var.2
16:01 – Var.3, Etwas belebter (“somewhat livelier”)
17:35 – Var.4
19:29 – Var.5

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