Grant McLachlan, composer, Department of Music, University of Cape Town

Monday 22–Wednesday 24 January 3.00 pm COURSE FEES R330; Staff and students R165


This three-part lecture series explores Robert Schumann’s place in the history of Western classical music. The son of a bookseller and publisher who was credited for inventing the paperback, Schumann was the first true romantic, being the first to see music as a form of poetic expression, yet remaining true to the legacy of his idols, Bach, Beethoven, and Schubert. Our story also includes the greatest love story in classical music – that between Robert and his wife Clara Wieck, one of the foremost pianists of the nineteenth century, and an important composer in her own right; it includes the moment Brahms came into their lives, Robert’s suicide attempt, and his subsequent admittance into an asylum.

We look at his legacy, how Clara sacrificed her own composing career to devote the rest of her life to editing and promoting her husband’s music, while bringing up her seven surviving children and making a living from her many performance tours and teaching. The story includes his exact contemporaries and friends Mendelssohn, Chopin, and Liszt; the influential violinist Joseph Joachim; and reaches right into the twentieth century to include a seance in 1933, Yehudi Menuhin, the Nazi government, and the X-rays of a pianist’s hands in Cape Town in 1974.

The story of this troubled, introverted, and passionate soul, beset by illness and tragedy, is as poignant and touching as it was almost two hundred years ago.


Lecture titles

  1. The Paris powerhouses: Schumann and his contemporaries: Mendelssohn, Chopin, Liszt
  2. Synthesis: the self-taught composer and the influence of Bach, Beethoven, and Schubert
  3. Classical music’s greatest love story: Robert and Clara; Johannes Brahms, the illness, and the aftermath