Robert Alexander Schumann was born in the small riverside town of Zwickau, Saxony, in 1810.The youngest of five children, Robert Schumann was brought up in comfortable, middle-class respectability. As a child, he apparently exhibited no remarkable abilities.

At the age of six, Robert was sent to the local preparatory school, run by Archdeacon Dohner. He had in fact already begun his education, with the young tutor who gave lessons in exchange for board and lodging at the Schumann home.

At the age of seven Robert received his first piano lessons, from Johann Gottfried Kuntzsch, organist at St. Mary's Church, and schoolmaster at the Zwickau Lyceum. Kuntzsch was a kindly, conservative musician of limited abilities; his knowledge stemmed from leisure-time study. Nevertheless, Robert was soon improvising, and even composing a set of dances for the piano.

Robert's musical talent was recognized by his father. He bought an expensive Streicher grand piano for his son, and soon four-handed arrangements of the classics were heard in the Schumann home. With a friend named Friedrich Piltzing, another pupil of Kuntzch's, Robert started to explore Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.

As a child, Schumann took part in several concerts at the Zwickau Lyceum. He once played Moscheles' Alexander March variations, which demanded considerable dexterity.

At the public Lyceum Robert was active as both pianist and public speaker. When he was fourteen, Kuntzsch decided that his pupil had progressed beyond the point where he could give further help, and declined to teach him anymore.

Shortly before leaving the Lyceum, Schumann collaborated with his brother Karl in preparing a new edition of Forcellini's Latin dictionary, Lexicon Totius Latinatinis.

Although now very busy as a composer, Robert yearned for affection. He soon fell for seventeen-year-old Ernestine von Fricken, who came to Leipzig in April 1834 to live in at the Wiecks', and to study with Clara's father. She had grown up in the little town of Asch with her father, Baron von Fricken, and was the illegitimate daughter of Countess Zedtwitz.

At the beginning of September 1835 Robert and Ernestine were secretly engaged. Within days, Baron von Fricken heard that something was afoot, arrived in Leipzig, and took Ernestine back to Asch. After secret discussions, the engagement was broken off by mutual agreement. Possibly Robert had been kept in the dark about Ernestine's origins.

In any event, the affair had a catalytic effect on Robert's music. He had the idea of writing a series of piano pieces based on the letters ASCH; these he later turned into Carnival. He also composed some piano variations on a theme provided by Baron von Fricken.

But Robert's friend Schunke had fallen seriously ill. Unable to bear the sight, Robert went back to Zwickau again, only returning to Leipzig in December to negotiate a change of publisher for the Zeitschrift. From the beginning of 1835 the journal was published by the Leipzig firm of JA Barth.

Late in 1835 Mendelsson arrived in Leipzig to take over as music director of the Gewandhaus. Still only twenty-six, Mendelsson was the director of the age, and Schumann felt an immediate attraction when they met at Wieck's house. Following the newcomer's debut in Leipzig, Schumann wrote praising him in the "Letters of an Enthusiast" column of his Zeitzcrift. Schumann did however venture to criticise Mendelssohn's use of the baton; he believed that an orchestra should function as a "republic" and that ridgity should be avoided.

At about this time, too, Robert met both Chopin and Ignaz Moscheles at the Wieck's. Throughout the autumn of 1835 Schumann was a regular visitor at the Wieck's home, seeing much of Clara, who was now sixteen. He had been following her career as a virtuoso closely since she was nine.when he was depressed, she cheered him up. Their talent affection was now becoming increasingly evident. Robert had now finished his first piano sonata, dedicated "The evening Clara set out on an important concert tour, Robert came to wish her well, and kissed her good-bye. They saw each other again in Zwickau, and kissed again. In the new year Robert traveled to Dresden, where he knew Clara was spending a holiday without her father, and made his declaration of love.

Schumann seems to have thought Clara's father would welcome him as his son-in-law. He was wrong. Hearing that Robert and Clara had been