In 1838, German composer Robert Schumann published a set of thirteen short piano pieces, titled Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood). Having lived a life fraught with struggles, difficulties in love, lack of musical recognition, physical illness, and suicide attempts, Schumann seems in these simple compositions to look back with affection on an equally simple time in his youth: a period when even troubles were fast zu ernst (“almost too serious”).
The son of a writer, Schumann grew up strongly influenced by both literature and music, and practiced both. The early nineteenth century saw the philosophy of German idealism and the literature of German romanticism in their fullest flower. It was the age of Hegel, Goethe, and Schiller. More than many composers of his time, Schumann was especially susceptible to the emotional and episodic possibilities inherent in music. Many of his pieces seem to be musical stories. This is not surprising, given their inspiration by literature of the Romantic period: two of his most famous collections of compositions, Fantasiestücke and Kreisleriana, are based upon the work of the author E.T.A. Hofmann, of Tales of Hofmann fame.
In Kinderszenen, Schumann bears us away from the angst and unhappy emotional complications of his other work, toward the early years when even the most serious dramas somehow resolved themselves in a matter of minutes. Back in childhood, Schumann seems to say, every day was like a newly-minted coin, full of possibilities and splendor, just waiting to be spent in a thousand different ways. We could not wait to be out of bed in the morning, and we could not bear to return at night. Have our adult lives ever been as enchanting and full of adventure as they were when we were very young?
For more on Kinderszenen, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinderszenen
For more on Schumann, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Schumann