Clara Wieck was born on 13. September 1819 in Leipzig (Germany) at the beginning of the so-called Romantic Era born in music. Her father, Friedrich Wieck, chose her name because it meant brilliant and radiant. He fully expected her to be a brilliant musician whom he had trained from birth. She grew up in a household where music was constantly heard. Her father gave piano lessons to many students who came and went, and sold instruments in their store in Leipzig.
The family would take daily walks together. It was a habit that Clara loved and would later attribute to her health and longevity. An entry in her childhood diary, which her father had started for her, shows that she did not speak until she was four years old. Even when she began to speak, her parents assumed she was hard of hearing because she was so selfish and did not pay attention to what was happening around her. This gave rise to the myth that she was "slow".
She loved piano lessons with her father and learned music without difficulty. They were words she had difficulty with. Apparently there were great tensions between Clara’s parents. Her selfishness might have served as a buffer for the harsh words she endured as a child. Music, on the other hand, was neither angry nor threatening. It was a refuge. All her life it would be a safe place where she could recover from tragedy and pain.
The Wieck house was always a meeting place for local and traveling musicians. Their home was always a great place to hear new sounds and meet new people. Therefore, Clara grew up in the presence of many great musicians of the Romantic period.
Although she was a bit shy, Clara was a child prodigy. She had actively belonged to some of the most elite musical circles in Leipzig. She was musically stimulated not only by her father’s teachings, but also by so many German Romantics.
Clara Wieck at the age of 16 in Hanover. On the piano, the solo part of the third movement of her Concerto op. 7. Lithograph by J. Kidney, 1835.
Her first performances were at home and for friends from Leipzig and Dresden. In 1828, her family traveled to nearby Dresden, where she gave private performances to local musicians and friends. Those present were impressed, and the young musician began to make a name for herself early on, at the age of 8. The trip to Dresden was so successful that the family briefly considered moving to that city.
On 20. October 1828 she was invited to join an ensemble at the Gewandhaus. Clara and her father made an impressive reputation for themselves in the musical community of the time. From time to time the family returned to Dresden, and Clara made her first extended tour in 1831.
She is an instant success everywhere and is invited to many events. Aristocratic ladies competed with each other to lend Clara rings, necklaces, and earrings. Her father was careful not to turn her head with praise and gifts. He wrote in his diary: "If I notice anything less harmful, I will leave immediately so that she can be in a proper bourgeois environment. I am too proud of her unpretentiousness to exchange it for worldly honors. "
Robert Schumann, 1839, 29 years old.
In the summer of 1830, the first solo concert was prepared in Leipzig. However, something took place that profoundly affected Clara’s life. In October, a new student moved into the Wieck household named Robert Schumann. He had arrived in Leipzig earlier in the year to pursue his passion for music after giving up his career as a lawyer. Clara’s father was like a legend to Robert and he was very fortunate to take piano lessons from Herr Wieck.
It was obvious that Clara was attracted to Robert. Her father quickly became concerned that if she fell in love, she would be distracted from her music. In September 1831, her father takes her on a tour of Germany and France, spending months in Paris. Her father brings another boy to divert her attention from Robert, and for the time it works.
They did not return to Leipzig until April of the following year. While they were gone, Robert had begun a relationship with another girl, Ernestine, who meanwhile was rapidly cooling off. Robert and Clara spend time together again, practicing music and taking walks as before.
Clara’s diary reveals that Robert brought out all her noblest and most artistic qualities. Their relationship had many elements. They improvised and played the piano together, shared memories and experiences, and fantasized about music they could create. In 1831, Clara dedicates her Opus 3 to Robert.
When Robert wanted to visit his family, she wrote him letters to take an interest in the Leipzig music scene and in her. She usually ended her letters with a cautious neutrality: "Your friend Clara Wieck." At this time, only 13 years old, Clara considered him a special friend.
By 1835, Robert had ended his relationship with Ernestine. Clara is now 16 and still performing locally. Robert respected that she was a young and impressionable girl, and as such she remained only their close friend. Even in his diary entries it was obvious that he loved her for her.
But after his 16th birthday. On her 70th birthday, he abandons all principles and assures her that his relationship with Ernestine is over. Robert’s diary shows how he felt about Clara during their first months together. He writes: "Clara’s birthday . her eyes and her love . In the evenings they spent pleasant hours in each other’s arms. A wonderful Christmas together."
Clara was incredibly happy. She later wrote to him: "When you gave me that first kiss, I thought I would faint; everything went blank and I could hardly hold the lamp that lit up." The two become daily companions.
A break with Clara’s father
Friedrich Wieck, Clara’s father.
At first, Clara’s father was unaware of their relationship. When his suspicions were finally aroused, his first reaction was to remove his daughter from Leipzig in January 1836. At first, Robert persisted in believing Clara’s father would approve of their marriage. He thought that Herr Wieck would be overjoyed to see his daughter with a talented musician like himself. Unfortunately this was not the case.
The struggle between Wieck and Robert over Clara was complicated by the fact that Robert and Clara needed Wieck at this point in their lives. Robert longed to be a son and son-in-law of his old piano teacher. He was shocked to find out that he could not have a relationship with either Clara or Wieck.
Clara knew that she was in love with Robert. But she loved her father and the musical success she enjoyed as a result of his hard work as a father. Their music and career still remained the center of their lives.
Wieck wrote letters to Robert informing him that all ties with their household had ended. He and Clara continued to tour together. It was an unfortunate unhappy tour. For almost a year and a half, Clara and Robert did not see each other and were rarely communicated with. Over the next two years, however, Clara took her first faltering steps toward love.
During this long separation, Robert put himself into his work, composing, studying, writing, and collaborating with some of the great musicians of the Romantic period. During these years Robert Schumann created some of his most famous works.
In the summer of 1837, a mutual friend began a correspondence between Robert and Clara. On 13. August Robert wrote to her:
"Are you still firm and true? Unbreakable as my faith in you is, the strongest spirit loses confidence when nothing is heard from the one who is loved more than anyone else in the world. And you are that for me. I have thought it a thousand times, and everything tells us: it must be, if we wish it and act it. Just write me a "yes", when you give your father a letter on your birthday. Just now he is inclined to me and will not refuse me if you add your requests to mine."
Her reply, simple and beautiful, sealed the bond with Robert. For the rest of their lives, they contemplated the following day, the 14th. August 1837, as the day of their engagement. In his diary Robert wrote: "A union for eternity".
Clara explained to her father her intention to move and marry Robert. The letters exchanged between the two lovers over the next few weeks are beautiful. The letters show so much joy as they commit to each other, even though Clara’s father remains adamantly opposed to their relationship.
Clara Wieck, 20 years old, shortly before she and Robert Schumann were married.
In September 1839, Clara asked her father for some income as a dowry during their tour together, but he refused. She therefore decided to provide her own dowry by performing herself. The young artist was obviously a bit nervous about the new life ahead of her. Her diary shows how she questioned how the two of them would feed themselves, whether the weather or not, that Robert really found her attractive. These doubts would quickly disappear.
There were some delays in their wedding due to legal matters concerning a blessing from Clara’s father. The time Clara and Robert spent together in Berlin and Leipzig while waiting for these problems to be resolved during the long months of 1839 and 1840 were some of their happiest. They made music together and took daily walks, just as Clara had done as a child. They both found it difficult to communicate with words, so composing music together was a wonderful form of communication.
They were married on 12. September 1840, the day before Clara’s 21st birthday. Birthday, married. Robert was 30 years old. This settled the dispute between Clara and her father, she was now the wife of Robert Schumann.
The marriage between Robert and Clara Schumann was unique in music history. They were attracted to each other not only because of their shared love of music and physical attraction, but also because their creative tendencies complemented each other so well.
The early years of their marriage were some of the happiest in Clara’s life. When they were finally together, they began a marriage journal that would be Marriage diary, in which they both changed weekly. The journal was especially helpful since they both had such a hard time communicating with words.
Her father apparently mocked her domestic bliss. An entry in their marriage journal in February 1841 reveals: "We enjoy a happiness that I have never known. My father always made fun of the so-called domestic happiness. How can I feel sorry for those who don’t know? . "
On 5. December 1840 Clara writes in the wedding diary: "We have been married a quarter of a year today, and it is the happiest quarter of a year of my life." However, it expresses the persistent sadness of the break with her father. On that first Christmas, she writes three songs for Robert as a Christmas gift.
A touching birthday gift
To Robert’s 31. On the occasion of his 50th birthday, his first birthday in marriage, Clara was inspired to give him a gift that would stay with him forever. She writes music to a poem that had always shown how she felt about him. On 8. June, 1841, she presents him his song Do you love for beauty with words by Friedrich Ruckert:
Do you love for beauty
Do you love for beauty
O do not love me!
Love the sun,
She wears golden hair!
Do you love for youth
O do not love me!
Love the spring
Who is young every year!
Do you love for treasure
O do not love me.
Love the sea woman
She has a lot of pearls clear.
Do you love for love
O yes, love me!
Love me always
Dich lieb ich immerdar.
If you Love for Beauty
If you love for beauty
Oh do not love me!
Love the sun
It has gold hair!
If you love for youth
Oh do not love me!
Love the spring-time
That is young each year!
If you love for wealth
Oh do not love me!
Love the mermaid
She has many clear pearls!
If you love for love
Oh yes, love me!
Love me forever
I will love you forevermore!
Robert and Clara publish music together, including this song. The title page of the collection, listed as Opus 37/12, gives no indication of the authorship of each song. Although Robert composed nine of the songs and Clara three, they feel that they composed them all together.
Almost exactly one year after the wedding, Clara gave birth to her first and most beloved child, Marie. Over the next 13 years they have seven more children. Clara loved her family very much, but would not let them put an end to music. They both continued to tour occasionally and enjoyed much success. In 1842 she experienced a complete revival of her solo career.
Robert’s illness and a move to Dresden
In August 1844 Robert suffers a severe mental and physical breakdown. He was in pain, he was shaking, crying, he couldn’t sleep and finally he became so weak that he couldn’t even walk around a room by himself. Clara renounces another concert tour and devotes herself entirely to Robert and his health. Various cures are tried, but nothing seems to help.
In December 1844, the family moves to Dresden on a newly built train, a four-hour ride from Leipzig. They had always thought that one day they would return to Leipzig, but never did so. It is assumed that they moved to Dresden to lead a quieter life and to be closer to Clara’s father, with whom there had been some kind of reconciliation.
Johannes Brahms, 20 years old.
In 1853, a young man arrives at the Schumann household looking for Robert. One of their children tells the man that his parents are not there, but will be home the next day. The next day the man meets Robert and asks if he might take piano lessons with him. He begins to play, but Robert quickly stops him and hurries to bring Clara in so she can listen to the music with him. The music played on the piano is some of the most wonderful they have heard in years, and both are overjoyed to have such a talented young musician back in their home. The young man’s name is Johannes Brahms.
Robert, Clara and Brahms spend the whole month of October together. You teach Brahms compositional and writing techniques that make him a truly brilliant musician.
Clara’s support and teaching made Brahms love and appreciate her very much. What exactly happened between them will never be known, but it is known that their relationship went far beyond infatuation. He had a confidence and trust in her that he had never found in anyone else. In a letter to a friend in June 1854, Brahms writes:
"I often have to force myself to just put my arm quietly around her, and even – I don’t know, it seems so natural to me that she couldn’t be misunderstood. I don’t think I can love an unmarried girl anymore – at least I have forgotten it completely. But they promise heaven, while Clara has revealed it to us."
Robert experienced good and bad days. But his nervousness and health continued to deteriorate. In February 1854, Robert insists that he go to an insane asylum because he felt he had lost control of his mind. Clara writes on 26. February in her diary:
"He was so melancholy that I cannot possibly describe it. When I only touched him, he said: "Ah Clara, I am not worthy of your love." He said that I had always looked up to with the greatest, deepest reverence."
Brahms makes himself family. Took care of the children while Clara was away or taking care of her husband. Clara describes him as a true friend. Brahms gave Clara his youth, support, passionate admiration, and the opportunity to share in the ideas and work of a creative genius.
Brahms does what he can to comfort Clara about her husband’s condition. She visits Robert in the hospital for two days in July 1856 to share wine together. She goes away for a short while one afternoon and finds him at 29. July 1856 deceased. She writes that, although sad, she is quite relieved that his suffering is over. She writes in her diary:
"I stood by the body of my beloved husband and was calm; All my feelings were grateful to God that he was free at last, and as I knelt by his bedside I had such a holy feeling. It was as if his great spirit hovered over me, oh – if he had only taken me with him! I saw him today for the last time – I put some flowers on his forehead – he took my love with him!"
The cause of Robert Schumann’s illness and death are the subject of much controversy. It is suspected that Schumann had a severe affective disorder. Inadequate medical treatment may have led to depression and nervous conditions exacerbated by overwork. The cause of death may ultimately have been self-starvation.
The later years
Clara Schumann, 38 years
In July 1856, Clara invites Brahms and his sister on a month-long vacation to the Rhine Valley and Switzerland. Here they discuss their future, possibly even marriage. However, it seems obvious that the two make a decision that they must separate.
The two remain lifelong friends. Brahms sends her manuscripts he has written, asking for comment and advice, and keeps her informed of what he is writing and planning. Clara would never marry again.
His deepest love for her is revealed in his last great songs, Vier ernste Gesange, written in May 1896 as she lay dying in Frankfurt. The songs were played immediately after Clara’s funeral by a group of close friends. A copy was sent to Clara’s daughter Marie with the following words:
"I wrote them in the first week of May… Deep inside all of us there is something that speaks to us and drives us almost unconsciously and that sometimes sounds as poetry or music. You can’t go through these songs now, because the words would be too influential. But I ask you to consider it as a true monument to your beloved mother."
Clara goes on 20. May 1896 by. Brahms dies eleven months later.
Love covers all sins.
Originally published 6. May 2017
Researched and Written by: Thomas Acreman
Clara Schumann by Nancy B. Rich
Concerto by Bertita Harding
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