“Robert Schumann’s music has never been more popular than it is now. But during his lifetime (1810–56), concerts were more likely to include pieces by Louis Spohr, Wilhelm Taubert, Ferdinand Hiller, or Julius Rietz. Not exactly household names today. So what led to Schumann’s increased popularity? Definitely a change in taste, which included more of a willingness to accept music that sounded different. But there was also a concerted effort at reevaluation. Much of it focused on mental illness, a taboo topic in the 19th century. Friends and family of Schumann worked to create their own image of him, one which downplayed the role of mental illness in his life. At the opposite extreme was the public perception. It sensationalized the final years he’d spent in an asylum, and tagged any of his eccentricities as proof of his insanity. In the end, Schumann’s reputation was broadly diminished, his music “tainted by his madness.””
Read the full story at NPR.org.