Clara Josephine Schumann (* 13. September 1819 in Leipzig; † 20. May 1896 in Frankfurt am Main; born Wieck) was a German pianist and composer and the wife of Robert Schumann.
Table of Contents
Clara Josephine Schumann’s father Friedrich Wieck was a studied theologian who, because of his passion for music, trained on the piano and initially founded a piano factory and a rental agency for music supplies. Clara’s mother Marianne Tromlitz was a concert singer and pianist. The birth of the – in infancy deceased – first daughter Adelheid followed Clara as well as the brothers Alwin, Gustav and Viktor. At the time of Viktor’s birth (1824), however, the parents were already separated. Friedrich Wieck later (1828) married Clementine Fechner, twenty years younger, and had a daughter with her (Marie), who also later took piano lessons with him. Marianne Wieck’s second marriage to Adolph Bargiel produced their son Woldemar Bargiel, who later became an important composer.
Friedrich Wieck, dedicated to the education of his children, was considered authoritarian and strict, but not unjust. All his attention was devoted to Clara, with whom, because of her musical talent, he intended to make her known as soon as possible as a child prodigy and piano virtuoso. Thus, after a few years, he took her out of the public elementary school and had her taught privately, so that her concentration on learning and perfecting the piano would not be impaired by outside influences. Even for the toddler, who did not yet know how to write, he kept a diary – it was written as if Clara herself had spoken as an author, namely in the first person. Later, too, he indirectly influenced Clara’s diary entries in the way that he had it submitted to him for reading. This explains diary entries by the nine-year-old such as:
My father, who had long since hoped in vain for a change of heart on my part, remarked again today that I was still so lazy, careless, untidy, stubborn, disobedient, etc., that I was not able to play any more. that I was this especially also in piano playing, and because I had learned Hunten’s new variations op. 26 played so badly in his presence, … he tore up the copy before my eyes, and from today on he will not give me another lesson and I must play nothing but the scales, Cramer’s etudes and Czerny’s trill exercises.
His tendency to want to control everything with Clara and to bully her later took on almost tyrannical features when it was a matter of keeping her away from Robert Schumann.
Wieck taught his daughter personally, and with no small success, as the performances of his daughter, accompanied by great applause, showed. Clara was the figurehead of his piano pedagogical method, which also helped musicians such as Robert Schumann and Hans von Bulow to become outstanding concert pianists. However, his hard pianistic training was not suitable for children. The extra-musical education that Clara Schumann enjoyed was, moreover, slight. According to Eva Weissweiler, the paternal influence can even be seen in her concert program. Only after her father’s influence had diminished, Clara Schumann devoted herself to Ludwig van Beethoven, Johann Sebastian Bach and Robert Schumann in her concertos. Before that, her program had consisted of the pleasing compositions of, for example, Friedrich Kalkbrenner, Camille Pleyel, Ignaz Moscheles and Henri Herz.
Wieck saw himself as Clara’s impresario, who organized the concert tours that were often fraught with hardship. He made sure that invitations to concerts were issued, that the venue was chosen appropriately and that the instruments provided functioned properly. This last point was a particular challenge for both father and daughter. At the beginning of the 19. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, it was not uncommon for pianos – which could not be taken along in the stagecoach – to be difficult to obtain at the concert venue, and for those that were available to be out of tune or otherwise defective. Before each concert the anxious question arose whether the mechanics of the instruments would "play along. It could easily happen that keys suddenly got stuck during playing, or that dampers did not return to the strings, so that the sound, which continued to ring out unhindered, destroyed the entire performance. Wieck therefore always carried a whole arsenal of piano tools with him and usually worked as a piano tuner and repairer before the concert. Soon he began to send instruments of his own choice to the place of the performance, so that Clara could play on a grand piano with which she was familiar.
The child prodigy Clara
From Clara’s childhood it is known that she learned to speak only very late. It probably happened at the age of four, when she spent a year separated from her father with her grandparents. The reason for the delay is thought to be psychological; however, it has not been clearly proven. At the age of five, she received intensive piano lessons, and by the 20. October 1829 she performed in public for the first time (with another student in a four-hand piece by Friedrich Kalkbrenner). The Leipziger Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung wrote:
"In the same concert it was still particularly pleasant for us to hear Clara Wieck, only nine years old and equipped with many musical devices, perform four-hand variations on a march from ‘Moses‛ by Kalkbrenner, with general and deserved applause. Under the guidance of her musician-experienced father, who understood the art of pianoforte playing well and was very active for it with love, we may cherish the greatest hopes of her."
Clara played in front of Goethe and became personally acquainted with Niccolò Paganini and Franz Liszt. In her younger years she performed in numerous cities and also in nearby foreign countries. In Vienna, at the age of 18, she was given the honor of being appointed Imperial and Royal Chamber Virtuoso. She was also active as a composer at a very early age. The Quatre Polonaises op. 1 were published when Clara was ten or eleven years old. It followed Caprices en forme de Valse, Valses romantiques, Quatre Pièces Caracteristiques, Soirees Musicales, a piano concerto and much more.
Clara knew Robert Schumann as a child. At the age of twenty, he lived for a time with the Wiecks and was taught by Clara’s father. He treated the eleven-year-old very nicely: he told her and her two brothers fairy tales he had invented himself. At that time, he fancied a pupil of Wieck, Ernestine von Fricken, who was three years older than Clara. He refrained from an engagement when he learned that she was an adopted child and not entitled to inheritance. Nevertheless, he continued Ernestine with the "Carnaval" a musical monument. Clara, however, had always been impressed by this man and adored him. When she was 16 years old, they became closer; Robert still raved about their first kiss in later letters. She was his "Zilia", his "Chiara", as he tenderly called her. In his work, he set her with the piece Chiarina a monument.
Clara’s father, however, was not at all willing to give Clara to the penniless young man, especially since he had no profession and could not even become a pianist, because an injury to the middle finger of the right hand had ended this career prematurely. Not even the fact that Robert was quite successful as a music editor and even had his own magazine (New Journal of Music) could change his mind. Wieck forbade the lovers any contact. Seeing each other was forbidden, as was correspondence. Wieck achieved the separation at first by scheduling Clara for numerous concert tours. He supervised her almost around the clock; apparently he even withdrew her ink so that she could not write. Clara’s secret letters reveal the distress in which she found herself:
"Don’t take it amiss that I write so terribly badly, but imagine that I am standing and the sheet of paper on which I am writing is lying on the dresser. Every time I dunk in the inkwell I run into the other room."
And another time:
"I beg you, do not be angry with me that the letter is so short, but think that it is 10 o’clock and I am writing full of anguish standing in my chamber."
In September 1839, Robert and Clara finally filed a complaint with the court in Leipzig, requesting that either Father Wieck be required to consent to the proposed marriage, or that consent be granted ex officio. The proceedings were delayed, not least due to Friedrich Wieck’s intervention, but on 1. August 1840, the court finally granted consent to the marriage, which was solemnized on 12. September 1840 in the village church of Schonefeld near Leipzig. However, a reconciliation between Wieck and the Schumann couple took place in 1843; the first step was taken by the father.
At Robert Schumann’s side
Marital and family happiness
The longed-for domestic companionship with Robert Schumann also had something frightening for Clara, however. The years of separation had made their love seem unearthly; now it had to survive in everyday life. Although Clara was freed from the oppressive dominance of her father, marriage also put her in certain restraints. Robert Schumann was certainly not despotic, but the time in which he lived knew clear conditions concerning the relationship of spouses. The marriage, however, finally offered Clara Schumann the opportunity to catch up on the general intellectual education neglected under her father’s regime. She read Goethe, Shakespeare and Jean Paul, and studied Ludwig van Beethoven, Johann Sebastian Bach and Frederic Chopin more intensively than before, in addition to her husband’s works.
Robert did not like that Clara wanted to continue concertizing; he demanded her presence at his side. At his request, Clara cut back on piano practice – Robert could not concentrate on composing otherwise. The situation changed only when the couple moved into a larger apartment in Dresden, where Clara could pursue her piano playing in a secluded room. Moreover, it was his wish that Clara should devote herself more to composition. He also tried to exert influence on this point, because to him the way of romantic compositions, which was limited to virtuosity and bravura, seemed too unserious. Clara should compose like him. His goal was musical togetherness in unity. And so a song cycle of the Schumann couple published in 1841 brought the reviewers into the embarrassment of not being able to say which of the settings were to be attributed to Robert and which to Clara.
Robert also introduced a marriage diary, which alternately received entries from him as well as from Clara. It seemed as if Clara had gone from the frying pan into the fire: After the diary controlled by her father, she now participated in a diary read by her husband. But this arrangement was intended by Schumann, who was known for his taciturnity, to also write messages and requests in it, where the (spoken) word was not enough. Therefore Clara made the best of the matter and used the book to give Robert her view on some matters. What could not be discussed in a discussion was written down and probably influenced some of his decisions.
In the following period, the children Marie (1841-1929), Elise (1843-1928), Julie (1845-1872), Emil (1846-1847), Ludwig (1848-1899), Ferdinand (1849-1891), Eugenie (1851-1938) and Felix Schumann (1854-1879) came into the world. The upbringing and education took place, as was customary in the bourgeoisie at that time, through wet nurses or nurse’s aides. Nanny. After Robert Schumann’s death, Clara sent five of her children away from home: Marie and Elise to Leipzig, Julie to Berlin, Ludwig and Ferdinand to Bonn; only Eugenie and Felix remained with her for the time being. The hardest fate hit the son Ludwig a few years later. As ponderous of mind and clumsy in manner, Clara complained: "Ludwig is no support for me" and, after Ludwig had a breakdown in 1870, ordered the young man to be committed to a lunatic asylum.
Continuation of the career
Clara soon reasserted her desire to go on concert tours. Not least the financial situation of the family made this step seem very advisable, since Clara contributed with her concert income to a considerable extent to the Schumanns being able to keep their heads above water. Incidentally, her concertizing also benefited Robert Schumann himself: since he could no longer perform in public due to his handicap of the right hand, she interpreted his works on the piano and later made him known throughout Europe. In this way she ensured to a large extent his fame as a composer.
A concert tour to Denmark (by rail, a scary undertaking for Clara) she undertook alone. She was accompanied by her husband to Russia, where she gave performances in St. Petersburg and Moscow in 1844. There Clara was received by the tsar’s family. Robert’s temporary displeasure with Clara’s successes is well known; he did not like the fact that she played the leading role in the concert tours. She was celebrated; sometimes money was slipped to him, which Robert noted in his diary, deeply hurt, with the bitter addition "And Clara’s behavior in doing so …" (Schumann often wrote her name with K at the beginning).
At the end of 1849 Robert Schumann was offered the position of Municipal Music Director in Dusseldorf. In 1850 the Schumann family therefore moved to Dusseldorf. Clara gave concerts and took over the musical assistance of the orchestra and choir at Robert’s side. The indiscipline of the musicians, which both complained about, was exhausting and led to the fact that rehearsals as well as performances did not bring the desired success. The couple was additionally burdened by a further move within Dusseldorf, which had become urgently necessary, as well as by a miscarriage.
At the beginning of 1854 Robert’s illness and Clara’s burdens reached a new climax. To a growing extent, Schumann had developed "auditory affections." According to his description, it was more than just noises, but rather intrusive sounds, up to and including entire pieces of music, that kept him from sleeping, caused him unbearable pain, and at times caused him to lapse into hallucinations. Robert Schumann’s diary notes still tell about this until 17. February 1854; after that there were no more entries. On 27. February, he threw himself from a bridge into the Rhine to kill himself, but was pulled out of the water and rescued. He was born on 4. March 1854 admitted to the Endenich mental hospital near Bonn (today a Bonn district). His illness was a consequence of a syphilis he had suffered before. Clara was pregnant with her youngest son Felix at the time and fled with the children to a friend’s house. Doctors strongly advised her not to "see her husband like that" in his deplorable condition.
The remark found in various biographies of Robert or Clara Schumann, that Robert at the time saw himself as a "criminal" who could "do his beloved wife harm", which is said to have led him to the decision to go to a private mental hospital of his own volition, is not supported by facts and is now highly controversial. In Robert’s diary entries, which were kept until 17. February, nothing is written about this, but the source of the allegations is known: Clara Schumann’s first biographer, Berthold Litzmann, in his three-volume work published in 1908, selected Clara Schumann. An artist’s life. After Diaries and Letters this account. Litzmann did not make the diaries and letters of Clara Schumann in his hands available to posterity (he is said to have burned them). On various occasions (including Dieter Kuhn in Clara Schumann. Piano), it is assumed that Litzmann, in his search for an explanation for Clara’s behavior after her husband’s admission to the mental hospital (she did not visit him there until more than two years later, two days before his death), sought a version of the event that would protect Clara: namely, by portraying her husband as a risk to her and her family. Since his incarceration, she had repeatedly asked to be allowed to see her husband, which the doctors did not permit due to the psychiatric views of the time (Wolfgang Held in Clara and Robert Schumann)
Their own ways
A love affair?
Every recent biography about Clara Schumann asks the question: What happened between Clara and Johannes Brahms?? Clara got to know and appreciate the composer, who was fourteen years younger, in 1853; Robert Schumann himself wrote the following in an essay New trajectories for the New Journal of Music the public attention given to the hitherto unknown artist. Soon after Schumann’s admission to the mental hospital in 1854, contact between Clara and Brahms intensified. It is certain that Brahms was in love with Clara; numerous letters testify to this. But what happened between them in the years 1854 to 1856 in particular, is little illuminated. By mutual agreement, Clara and Brahms subsequently destroyed almost all of their correspondence from the period up to 1858. However, only Brahms kept completely to the agreement. Clara kept some letters that could finally shed some light on their relationship.
The fact is that Brahms lived for a time with Clara in the Dusseldorf apartment. Very rarely Brahms was her companion on concert tours. According to his notes, he would have wanted to experience her closeness much more often, but did not dare:
"I thought – how often about going to you. But I feared the inappropriate. Everything gets into the newspapers."
In his letters, all forms of address are encountered: At the beginning "Dear Madam", then "Dearest Friend", finally "Dearest Beloved Friend", at the end "Beloved Mrs. Clara". In the letter of 25. November 1854 suddenly states:
Dearest friend, how lovingly the sweet "you" looks at me! A thousand thanks for this, I can’t look at it enough and read it enough, I heard it first; I have seldom missed the word so much as when reading your last letter.
He, the younger, did not dare to offer a Du, is suddenly confronted with it and only slowly finds his way into this intimate form of address. In the letter of 31. May 1856 he writes in all clarity:
My beloved Clara, I wish I could write to you as tenderly as I love you, and do as much love and good as I wish for you. You are so infinitely dear to me that I cannot even say it. All at once I want to call you darling and all sorts of things without getting tired of flattering you. (…) Your letters are like kisses to me.
Clara’s reaction to Brahms’ ravings has not survived. How she wanted to see herself emerges from surviving diary entries: Clara was to go down in history as a glorious artist – and as a lover, but confined to the person of Robert Schumann. After the death of Robert Schumann in 1856, the correspondence between her and Brahms was noticeably reduced in its intensity of personal exchange, which can also essentially only be taken from the letters preserved by Brahms, frozen in restrained consternation.
In 1863 Clara moved to Baden-Baden. The following years were also marked by successful concert tours to numerous cities in Germany and Europe. Clara remained a pianist celebrated everywhere until her death. In 1878, she was appointed "First Piano Teacher" of the newly founded Hoch’sches Conservatory in Frankfurt am Main. She was active as an editor of the works of Robert Schumann and published a number of his writings. She gave her last concert on 12. March 1891 at the age of 71. On 26. In March 1896, Clara suffered a stroke and died a few months later at the age of 76. In accordance with her wishes, she was buried next to her husband in the old cemetery in Bonn. A small memorial plaque at 32 Myliusstrasse in Frankfurt am Main commemorates her last place of work.
Clara Schumann as a composer
Her father had the young Clara given composition lessons at an early age by the Thomaskantor Weinlig and the Kapellmeister Heinrich Dorn. Eva Weissweiler, in her analysis of the composer Clara Schumann, however, comes to the conclusion that these composition lessons were rather caused by the fact that
"Father Wieck … rather, with his characteristic business acumen, [had] realized that the success of his universally admired child prodigy would be even greater if she could also compose a little; not, of course, sophisticated piano music like the ‘Papillons’ of his student Robert Schumann, but brilliant and sentimental rondos, romances and caprices, just as the partly upper-middle-class, partly aristocratic public expected of a future lady."
These composition lessons were not very intensive. A lack of theoretical training can be seen especially in her first compositions. When Robert Schumann reviewed her Soirees Musicales in his ‘Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik,’ he tactfully paraphrased this deficiency as "foreign fantasy".
If one judges Clara Schumann as a composer, one should not overlook the fact that she created music at a time when this was considered unusual for a woman. About her Piano Concerto in A minor op. 7, written during their 14. or. 15. At the age of two, the music critic C expressed.F. Becker in a review of the work, that of course there could be no question of a serious criticism of this work, "because we are dealing with the work of a lady." Hans von Bulow remarked in connection with her compositions:
"Reproductive genius can be attributed to the fair sex, just as productive genius must necessarily be denied to it … There will never be a female composer, only, for instance, a printed copist … I do not believe in the feminine of the term: creator. Furthermore, everything that tastes of female emancipation is detestable to me."
Clara Schumann herself said of her piano trio op, which critics described as the culmination of her work. 17, which she wrote despite pregnancies, economic hardship and pianistic failures,
"Of course, it always remains women’s work, which lacks … strength and here and there invention."
Unlike the British composer Ethel Smyth, for example, Clara Schumann was less able to detach herself from the judgment of her contemporaries, and composing was perhaps for that reason never her top priority. During her marriage, she composed mainly to please her husband. It is therefore not surprising that she finally stopped this activity after his death. Clara Schumann’s works are rarely heard today. They are by no means bad or inferior in this respect. Composed for her own performances, they are virtuosic and in keeping with 19th century musical tastes. Century.
The three songs from Opus 12 that Clara Schumann composed, along with the Piano Trio op. 17 and the three romances for piano and violin op. 22 among the best compositions she has written. The song cycle that Clara Schumann wrote as op. 13 which she subsequently published and in which she set poems by Heinrich Heine, Emanuel Geibel and Friedrich Ruckert to music, was also highly acclaimed by her husband. Nevertheless, a little later he wrote about her compositions:
"Clara wrote a number of smaller pieces, so tender and rich in music in their invention, as she had not been able to do before. But having children and an ever-imaginative husband and composing do not go together …"
Clara Schumann as a virtuoso
As a piano virtuoso, however, Clara had an exceptional position for her time. The beginning 19. The nineteenth century produced a number of outstanding soloists whose overwhelming skill on their instrument fascinated the audience. Accordingly, the demand for solo performances by the artists was also great. In the first half of the 19th century. At the beginning of the twentieth century, these were z.B. the violinists Paganini – (the "devil’s violinist," as he was fondly called) – and Joseph Joachim, (with whom Clara performed numerous joint concerts). Among the pianists, besides Clara Schumann, Liszt, Chopin, Sigismund Thalberg and Friedrich Kalkbrenner had the reputation of being unsurpassed on the piano. It should not be overlooked that objective circumstances also favored the development of piano virtuosos: the instruments grand piano and upright piano underwent repeated improvements over time: Steel strings were drawn in, the range was extended, and the action became more sophisticated (unlike Beethoven and Hummel, who were considered outstanding pianists of the Viennese Classical period, the strikers did not "stick" irrevocably to the strings if one did not let go of the keys). The artists incorporated technical progress into their work, both in the performance of solo pieces and in their compositions.
What particularly distinguished Clara Schumann: she existed in a male-dominated world. She did not allow herself to be reduced to the presentation of salon pieces, played u.a. demanding sonatas by Beethoven and some of his piano concertos (including the fifth, which was considered difficult), and was celebrated and honored throughout Europe because of it. While her husband constantly felt he had to struggle for recognition (legendary is the story that when he accompanied Clara on the concert tour to Russia, he is said to have been asked: "And you? What do you? Do something with music too?"), she was held in high esteem, which was not a matter of course for a woman at the time. The fact that father Wieck laid the foundation for this through his strict school is only a small part of her success. Clara Schumann had an extraordinary talent, and she felt the need to live it out, even if she had to repeatedly assert it against other interests (motherhood, Robert Schumann’s influence). How outstanding her position was for the time is shown by the fact that Clara – apart from exceptional cases such as z.B. Fanny Hensel born. Mendelssohn – one of the few female pianists of the 19th century. She was one of the most famous female composers of the nineteenth century, who enjoyed a high profile.
The work of her husband, which Clara made known to the public through concert performances, kept her busy even after she had increasingly withdrawn from the concert business. After his early death, she promoted the publication of his compositions in the music publishing house Breitkopf& Hartel, but also collected all his writings and diaries, published them and thus set him a memory. Her important role in the creation of the modern concert repertoire (repertoire canonization) has recently been demonstrated by the statistical analysis of her life repertoire based on 1312 program notes of all her public concerts.