Clara Schumann is rumored to have had an affair with Johannas Brahms, an idea pooh-poohed by many. Just look at the size and shape of that guy, yes? And yet, he—like many of the rest of us—looked quite different as a young man. He was said to be quite handsome and dashing as a younger. Ah yes, and a musician too. What better than the electricity of sexual attraction to someone who has everything going for him? Add to that that her husband, while a grand musician and composer, was a bit off the beam. Playing at A-flat, so to speak.
Robert Schumann did create many beautiful things, including some of my favorite piano pieces. Perhaps I’ve said this before, if so, apologies: When questioned about where the music or inspiration came from, he replied it was in his mind. He just had to write it down. The questioner said how marvelous that must be. Good God no! He replied. How would you like that *****###### in your head all the time. You can’t get rid of it!
Poor man, it did indeed drive him crazy. And then there’s the incident of the hand. Pianists like to have an octave-and-beyond reach for chords. The farther the better. Robert therefore bound his hand(s?) with his fingers stretched out while he slept in an attempt to improve his reach. In doing so he crippled them. Imagine the horror—a pianist who cannot use his hands to play properly—and at his own doing. Eventually Schumann died in a mental asylum, although he had—again, like more than one musician/composer—attempted suicide more than once.
Rachmaninoff is reputed to have the largest hands measured with a span of a 12th… C – G’ in easy playing, not just stretching. That explains some of his chord progressions. He too, as with many musicians, went off the beam now and again, especially suffering from depression. To resume his career at one point he consulted a hypnotist who seems to have benefited his return to the concert stage.
I find it puzzling why many people ask creatives—writers, artists, composers, et.al.—where they get their ideas. Such an odd question, and one impossible to answer. Let it suffice to say it’s many things, not the least of which is craft—after the inspiration—work, work, work.
And no, not everyone who creates goes crazy or kills herself. The demons land where they must.
Conductor Marta Gardolinska: Our jobs are similar to those of sports people’s high pressure and physical strength is needed…”