Schumann is most famous for solo piano music, lieder (German songs), his four symphonies, and a few chamber works. In addition to a genuine melodic gift, Schumann was a fearless experimenter with form — in his piano concerto, for example, the themes for all the movements are derived from a basic theme.
- Broadening out: Schumann methodically expanded his composing activity in the early 1840s, focusing on orchestral works, including two symphonies in 1841; chamber music, including the beloved Piano Quartet in E-Flat Major, in 1842; and the marvelous oratorio Das Paradies und die Peri in 1843. He also studied counterpoint seriously in 1845, writing a series of fugues and studies, and making changes to his compositional routine that lead to a denser, richer, “late style.”
- Literary muse: Many of Schumann’s most original ideas came from his desire to mix his musical and literary inspirations. Famous examples can be found in the song cycle Dichterliebe (which has a long piano postlude that elaborates the meaning of the last song), in the dramatic works, and even in the character pieces for piano.