Ghost Variations: Robert Schumann’s spectral inspiration

The German composer Robert Schumann struggled with melancholic depression, tried to end his life in the ice-cold Rhine River, and admitted himself to a mental asylum where he got regular visits from spirits both heavenly and hellish, who would play him music alternately “wonderful” or “hideous.” But before he died, either a dream or a delusion inspired him to write one of his most enduring pieces of piano music, the “Ghost Variations,” inspired by a perceived encounter with Franz Schubert or Felix Mendelssohn.

Schumann composed the orchestral work in 1854 but it remained relatively unknown until a Hungarian violinist reportedly received otherworldly guidance via Ouija board to go seek it out. You can here more about that story and the novel it inspired here or check out an interpretation of Schumann’s peculiarly inspired pièce de ré·sis·tance above.

-Jamie

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  • On January 21, 2017

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