The Autobiographical Aspects in Robert Schumann’s ‘Davidsbündler’, Op.6

By Ling Fung Chan.

Published by The Arts Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Davidsbündler, Op.6 is one of Robert Schumann’s early compositions; it is a piano suite of consisting of eighteen character pieces. A poetic composition, the work is notable for its simplicity and sincerity. It has a strong affiliation with the ideology of Schumann’s Davidsbund (League of David), his partly real, partly imaginary band of musicians and critics who crusaded against the musical philistines, whose compositions exemplified empty virtuosity, particularly in keyboard music. In addition, Schumann wrote Davidsbündler, with the intention of honoring his future wife Clara Wieck, borrowing the motifs from Clara’s compositions as cyclical motifs throughout the composition. Therefore, Davidsbündler, is highly autobiographical in nature, a work in which Schumann illustrated not only his compositional style, but also expressed his intimate messages to Clara. To exemplify the autobiographical features, I first discuss Schumann’s troublesome romantic relationship with Clara which inspired him to compose the Davidsbündler. Secondly, I provide an explanation of the influence of the Davidsbund in this work. With the ideals of the Davidsbund as background, Davidsbündler, Op.6 displays Schumann’s inclinations towards the poetic side of music and his interest in character pieces notable for their brevity. Importantly, Eusebius and Florestan, the two major Davidsbund characters, appear in the Davidsbündler, Op.6, representing Schumann’s dual personality in his personal diaries and correspondences. Furthermore, the story behind the names Eusebius and Florestan are associated with his relationship with Clara, thus enhancing the autobiographical quality of Davidsbündler. Finally, I present all the musical motifs and other types of symbolism associated with Clara, which indicate Schumann’s love for her in this crucial example of romanticism.

Keywords: Robert Schumann, ‘Davidsbündler’, Autobiographical Composition, Music Criticism, Davidsbund, Clara Schumann, Eusebius and Florestan

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 3, Issue 5, pp.113-126. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.693MB).

Ling Fung Chan

Doctoral Student in Historical Musicology, Graduate Assistant, Music Department, The University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA

Ling Fung Chan, born in Hong Kong, is currently pursuing her Ph.D in Musicology at the University of Florida (UF). She holds the degrees MMus and Piano Pedagogy Certificate from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and BMus in piano performance from the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. She was a graduate assistant to professors in music history and a piano instructor in the Music Preparatory School at CMU. Presently, she is the piano accompanist of the opera workshop at the UF. Prior to her study at UF, she performed in piano master classes by Earl Wild, Ilana Vered and Enrique Graf. She has also performed in various venues, including Kresge Recital Hall in Pittsburgh, and Jan Deyl Conservatory in Prague. Her recent paper, The Goya-like element in the Enrique Granados the piano suite and opera Goyescas, is published in the conference proceeding from the 6th Hawaii International Conference on Arts and Humanities (2008), and she was also invited to present this paper at UF’s 2007 Hispanic Symposium. Besides her research on Goyescas, her other current research interests include the piano and theatrical works by Enrique Granados, the autobiographical aspects in Schumann’s piano works, and the 19th-century piano ballades.


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