Clara Schumann (1819-1896)
Why hurry over beautiful things? Why not linger and enjoy them?
Clara Schumann was a genius German composer, pianist, and teacher. She is rightfully regarded as one of the greatest piano players of the Romantic era. During her life, she was a close friend of violinist Joseph Joachim and composer Johannes Brahms. She gave over 238 concerts with Joachim in Germany and Britain.
Clara Schumann was born in Leipzig into a family of musicians: Friedrich Wieck and Mariane Wieck. Her father was a proficient music teacher Her mother was a popular singer who used to play the piano often at the Gewandhaus.
Clara’s father saw that she had a bright musical career from the earliest age. Her mother gave her basic piano lessons when she was only four. After Clara’s parents divorced, Friedrich began giving her one-hour lessons every day. She was taught how to play the piano and the violin, as well as how to sing. Her father told her about harmony, composition, and counterpoint.
Additionally, she had to practice at least two hours a day. Friedrich Wieck taught her by the same methods that were used in his book "Wieck's Piano Education for a Delicate Touch and a Singing Sound." Her extensive musical studies hindered her general education, but she did study religion as well as several other languages.
When Clara was only 18 years old, she was offered marriage by Robert Schumann, who was 9 years older than her. She accepted the proposal, but her father was strongly opposed to their union. Clara and Robert had to go to court and sue him. Their marriage was allowed by the court on September 12, 1840, one day before Clara turned 21 years old. After the ceremony, the couple enjoyed a close relationship. They even wrote a joint personal and musical diary that described their life.
The happiness lasted only 14 years as in 1854 Robert mentally collapsed and tried to take his own life. In the aftermath, he was confined in a sanatorium in the Endenich village near Bonn. He would stay there until his death two years later. Schumann died in Frankfurt and was later buried in Bonn beside her husband.
Joseph Joachim, Albert Dietrich, Johannes Brahms, and Julius Otto Grimm spent time and played music for Clara in March 1854. This way they wanted to ease her pain from the strategy. Brahms also frequently visited Robert Schumann at the institution. Clara never saw her husband during all that time and was only admitted to seeing Robert on his deathbed.
Schumann spent 61 out of 76 years of her life-giving concerts. She began touring when she was only 11 years old. She was most successful in Vienna and Paris. She often changed the program and the format. Some of her venues were meant to showcase her high level of play while others were dedicated to more serious works.
In April 1856 she toured England for the first time. William Sterndale Bennett, a good friend of Robert, invited her to play at the London Philarmonic Society. Clara was very disappointed with how little time was spent on the rehearsals but was amazed by cellist Alfredo Piatti and his style of performance was unlike anything she had heard before. Despite her initial mixed feelings about Britain, she performed there for the next 15 years.
After her husband died, Schumann went on touring Europe for decades. She often performed along with acclaimed violinist Joseph Joachim as well as other chamber musicians.
In 1878 she started a career as a piano teacher at Dr. Hoch's Konservatorium in Frankfurt. There Schumann was a favorite among international students.
Several motion pictures are celebrating Schumann. 1944 saw the release of Träumerei (Dreaming). Director Helma Sanders-Brahms released her Geliebte Clara (Beloved Clara) movie in 2008.
From 1989 to 2002 Clara Schumann’s image from an 1835 lithograph was present on the 100 Deutsche Mark banknote.