I cannot give a single concert at which I do not play one piece after the other in an agony of terror because my memory threatens to fail me. This fear torments me for days beforehand.
Manuscript Sketches of Études symphoniques, Op. 13; ca. 1834
In 1834, Schumann fell in love with Ernestine von Fricken, a piano student of Friedrich Wieck, and for a time they seemed destined to marry. The relationship did not last—Schumann got cold feet after he learned that she had been born out of wedlock—but it inspired some notable music. Carnaval, Op. 9, a set of character pieces for piano, is based on a four-note motive derived from the name of Ernestine’s home town. The Etudes symphoniques, Op. 13, are variations on a theme by Ernestine’s father, Ignaz Ferdinand von Fricken, a nobleman and amateur composer. Of course, Schumann eventually transferred his affections to Clara Wieck, and it was she who gave the first performance of the Etudes symphoniques, in 1837. The piece was published by Haslinger that same year, with a dedication to the English composer William Sterndale Bennett rather than to Ernestine. A revised version appeared in 1852.