A victim of extreme mental instability who lived in constant fear of full-fledged insanity, Romantic composer Robert Schumann (1810-56) derived much of his musical inspiration from two demons that repeatedly appeared to him in his sleep, Florestan and Eusebius - the former intense, high strung and heroic, the latter poetic, brooding and introverted. The music itself thus embodied the clash between these two influences, with scores that couple a sense of power and a gently poetic lyricism. Nowhere are these elements clearer than in Schumann's Symphony No. 2 in C major, Op. 61, authored in mid-recovery from a psychological breakdown. This unusual avant-garde work explores the said symphony by fluctuating between two elements: orchestral rehearsals of the work in Salzburg, Austria, and dramatized sequences that find conductor Sir Roger Norrington caught up in a fantasy themed argument between Florestan and Eusebius (both played by Simon Callow) over the composition of the Second Symphony itself.
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