Friedrich Wieck (1785 - 1873), father of Clara Schumann

Friedrich Wieck, Vater Clara Schumanns, Gemälde um 1828

Friedrich Wieck, father of Clara Schumann, painting around 1828
(Robert-Schumann-Haus, Zwickau)

Friedrich Wieck grew up in the small city of Pretsch at the Elbe, located between Torgau and Wittenberg. He was the son of a business man and after a short stay at a school (St. Thomas’) in Leipzig he went to high school  in Torgau and then studied theology in Wittenberg. His musical education was highly unsystematic. After the obligatory trial sermon in Dresden, he didn’t aspired to priesthood, but became a private tutor. He spent the upcoming nine years in various noble families in Thuringia. Wieck was a conscientious and good teacher. He disposed progressive education methods such as those of Rousseau, Basedow and Pestalozzi to his students. When and where Wieck studied composition is still not certain. However, in 1815 he sent some songs to Carl Maria von Weber, who reviewed the compositions in detail. Thereupon Wieck printed the works.

At the age of 30, Wieck gave up his position as tutor and looked around for a new field of activity. With the financial support of a friend he setteld down before 1815 as a piano teacher and owner of a piano and music store in Leipzig. The ambitious Friedrich Wieck managed his company until he moved to Dresden in 1840. He rented out, tuned, repaired and sold pianos. In addition to that, he also sold and rented music supplies, music books and magazines. From 1820 onwards, Wieck regularly traveled to Vienna to buy pianos, and became friends with the piano makers Conrad Graf and Andreas Stein. He corresponded with the pianist Carl Czerny and made the acquaintance of Ludwig van Beethoven.


In 1816, Wieck entered an advantageous marriage with Mariane Tromlitz, with whom he was married until 1825. From the beginning, he pursued the objective of a concert career as a piano virtuosa for his daughter. Thanks to his teaching skills, he managed also to train Clara to become a famous pianist. He had similar success with the pianistic education of Marie Wieck, his daughter from the second marriage. In 1828 Friedrich Wieck married the 23 year-old Clementine Fechner (1805-1893), daughter of the pastor Samuel Traugott Fechner. While Friedrich Wieck was on a concert tour with Clara in 1830, Clementine took care of the children, the household and the business. Friedrich Wieck gave her many tasks, also far away, which she performed patiently and proficiently. Clara had a more distanced relationship to her step-mother.

Since 1830, Robert Schumann lived in the house of Wieck took piano lessons with Friedrich Wieck, who highly appreciated the young man. However, he did not accept Schumann as son in law and so Clara and Robert had to obtain their marriage license by court. The years before the marriage Clara struggled between love for her father, to whom she owed her education and career, and Robert Schumann. Finally she broke with her father and despite a later reconciliation the relationship never was the same again. Friedrich Wieck focused on the training of Clara's half-sister Marie to become a pianist, and had further successful students such as Hans von Bülow.

In 1840, Friedrich Wieck moved to Dresden and studied with John Miksch vocal methodology to expand his educational work. His most successful singing student was Minna Schulz.

As a culmination of his musical education in Dreden, Friedrich Wieck’s students founded on occasion of his 86th birthday the "Friedrich Wieck Foundation" to promote the impecunious, musically talented youth. Wieck’s piano pedagogical works continued his children Alwin and Marie.

In 1873, Frederick Wieck died in Loschwitz near Dresden. Clara Schumann all her life felt grateful to her father for what he had done for her and came to his defence against unjust criticism. After his death she wrote in her diary: "His nature had something great, he was not petty at all; wherever he could be of use, he was always ready; moreover, he sought the opportunities to do so, he was highly interested in scouting new talents and never asked for praise and thanks.” Clara Schumann described in a letter to the writer La Mara the education by her father, who had not only taken focus on the artistic training, but also on the physical one and had walked with Clara several hours daily - a habit she maintained throughout her life. Clara Schumann stated: "To my sorrow I must say that my father has never been as recognized, as he deserved it! I thank him for the so-called cruelties for all my life. How could I ever manage to practice the art with so many heavy fates throughout the years and to continue to live, if my constitution would not have been so healthy and strong thanks to my father’s concerns?" In 1894, she wrote to Dr. Wilkinson about her concerns that she had about her piano student Ilona Eibenschutz. In particular, she wrote about her health and in this context, she also said about her father: “[...] she is missing a sensible father like I was so lucky to have, who takes care of her health and makes sure that she goes for long walks, doesn’t accept invitations to late events, never practices too much in a row, does nothing but rest in the afternoons before concerts, in short someone who guards her. The people certainly might call him a tyrant, as my father  had to put up with, - but I thank him yet every day; and for the vigor that until an old age (in art at least) I also thank him! "

(Julia M. Nauhaus, tranlated by Katharina Ma)

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