Get personalized recommendations and earn points toward a free book!
Check Out
The Bestselling Books of All Time
See the List


Best Seller
Schumann by Judith Chernaik
Sep 18, 2018 | 368 Pages
See All Formats (3) +
  • Paperback $17.00

    Aug 13, 2019 | 384 Pages

  • Hardcover $30.00

    Sep 18, 2018 | 368 Pages

  • Ebook $13.99

    Sep 18, 2018 | 368 Pages

Buy the Audiobook Download:

Product Details


“A generous and tremendously useful resource . . . Without hitting you over the head, Chernaik allows you to feel the core of Schumann’s story. [She] gets the incredible essence of how he offloaded his difficult emotional world onto an imaginary band of alternative identities, partly for survival, partly to fight the philistine world on better terms. . . . Schumann’s spirit comes across as an antidote to all the hate and perverse self-love we are forced to swallow in public affairs, day after day. . . .  If you take the time to read Chernaik’s new biography, your life outlook may improve.” —Jeremy Denk, The New York Times Book Review (front cover)
“This densely informative biography also provides a comprehensive listening guide to [Schumann’s] music. . . . For Chernaik, the music illuminates the story of a man with ‘more feeling than judgment,’ who emerged as one of the most influential Romantic composers, before a harrowing descent into madness.”The New Yorker

“Chernaik is an enthusiastic student of Schumann’s music and a fine chronicler of his turbulent life. Schumann: The Faces and the Masks is a well-proportioned, highly readable biography for general readers that establishes Schumann as a man thoroughly of his time. The book’s greatest contribution is to situate Schumann in a remarkable fraternity of 19th-century composers.” —Michael O’Donnell, The Wall Street Journal

“[Schumann] was an artist of great humanity, a humanity that shines through his musical legacy along with that of his wife, Clara, a brilliant pianist and gifted composer in her own right. Now they have both found a modern biographer, Judith Chernaik, who does them justice with grace and insight. . . . Ms. Chernaik deserves high applause both for reviving an important chapter in musical history and for giving a truly harmonious account of one of the greatest musical love stories of all time.” —Aram Bakshian Jr., The Washington Times 

“Engrossing . . . A most touching and moving story, beautifully told . . . [Chernaik] understands the poetry of Schumann’s soul and she communicates with quiet urgency the pity of his story and the beauty of his music. If her intention was that by reading this, we’d be inspired to go back to his music with a deeper appreciation, it has worked for me.” —Ysenda Maxtone Graham, Daily Mail

“Eloquent . . . The book’s strengths lie in its clarity and empathy. . . . Schumann’s personality emerges vividly [in this] deeply moving read.” —Jessica DuchenBBC Music Magazine
“Fascinating . . . Well-documented . . . The author [presents] to us a fully formed Schumann, and we are able to appreciate the richness of his life, expansive range of his music and the humanity of his numerous failures.” —Wylheme H. Ragland, The Decatur Daily

“Perhaps it takes a novelist to get inside Schumann’s turbulent imagination: step forward Judith Chernaik, scholar of another pre-eminent early Romantic, Shelley. Fresh insights emerge from access to the composer’s medical records, and consideration of his output as a writer of words as well as music. It’s a tale as gripping as any thriller.” Pianist

“A vivid, sympathetic portrait of emerging genius. . . . Sound on the music, the book is superb on the life. This is the most readable and penetrating biography of this wonderful composer whose life touches modern sensibilities at so many points.” —Stephen WalshThe Oldie

“It would be a strong woman or man who was not shaken by Chernaik’s account of what this sweetest and most vulnerable of men, purveyor of the loveliest, most fantastical and tender of all musical inventions, endured. . . . Schumann’s story has been told from various perspectives, psychoanalytical, cultural, historical. Chernaik has chosen, shrewdly, to tell it through the music, since Schumann’s life is, to a unique degree, incorporated into it—in coded references to himself, to Beethoven, to Bach, to his contemporaries Chopin and Mendelssohn, above all to his wife Clara . . . All of this is ingeniously embedded in his music, even at its most apparently spontaneous and passionate, and Chernaik, a one-woman musical Bletchley Park, has brilliantly decoded it.” —Simon Callow, The Sunday Times (London)

“Enthralling . . . Beautifully written, excellently researched, and shot through with love and understanding of her subject . . . [With] a number of fascinating illustrations . . . A most recommendable book.” —Robert Matthew-Walker, Musical Opinion
“A sharp, knowing, and complicatedly sympathetic treatment . . . Not only does [Chernaik’s] book feature some of the most passionate appreciations of Schumann’s music ever written in English, but she leaves her readers very specific and very encouraging instructions on how to find every last note of that music for free online . . . The story of the music . . . is expertly intertwined with the well-known details of the weird broken-field obstacle-course that was the man’s life . . . A tremendously persuasive portrait.” —Steve Donoghue, Open Letters Review

“An affecting and moving biography . . . Chernaik pays close attention to the music and summons its inimitable combination of romantic ardour, eccentricity and classical craftsmanship in deft prose.” —Ivan Hewett, lead review in The Daily Telegraph
“Fast-paced and informative . . . Chernaik vividly brings to life German composer Robert Schumann. Using his personal diaries, letters, and other key archival sources, Chernaik puts his life in a new light while providing an overview of Romanticism in 19th-century Europe.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“[An] intimate biography . . . [Chernaik], who betrays a close acquaintance with the composer’s oeuvre, offers a very personal take on his life . . . While providing ample discussion of the classical works, [she] eschews technical language and musical notation . . . Highly recommended.” —Herbert E. Shapiro, Library Journal

“Altogether outstanding. . . . [Schumann’s] story is oft-told, but Chernaik’s version eclipses its predecessors in two, perhaps three, respects. She has accessed newly released documentation of Schumann’s final illness . . . She fills the book with descriptions of Schumann’s compositions that are more easily followed and more thorough than most recording liner notes and that convincingly relate each piece to Schumann’s life circumstances as well as to his other music . . . The third distinction stems from the fact that Chernaik is also a novelist. She doesn’t get bogged down in data or scholarly one-upmanship, her vocabulary is direct and strong, and she keeps the line of Schumann’s life ever before us.” —Ray Olson, Booklist (starred review)

“A guided tour through the life and work of Robert Schumann (1810-1856), a musical genius who viewed the sublime before a decline into syphilitic madness. . . . A sturdy foundation of research and musical knowledge (and love) underlies this inspiring and wrenching account of a man who pursued, captured, and lost.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Looking for More Great Reads?
Download our Spring Fiction Sampler Now
Back to Top