Clara Wieck-Schumann – biographical introduction

Clara Schumann née Wieck (Leipzig September 13, 1819 – May 20, 1896 Frankfurt/Main) is one of the most famous female pianists in the 19th century. She started her outrageous career as child of prodigy on the piano and performed for six decades on the center stages in whole Europe.

But Clara Schumann lived up to more than this role: She was her own manager, composer and wife to the composer Robert Schumann and gave birth to eight children, of which seven reached adulthood. She was also friend, advisor and appreciated colleague of many famous musicians as for instance to Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient, Pauline Viadrot-Garcia, Johannes Brahms and Joseph Joachim, but she also was piano educationist and editor of the works of her deceased husband. Was Clara Schuman an “all-rounder”?

How did she manage to live up to so many roles? What were the difficulties and crises she had to deal with in her successful life? Is she still a role model for women in the 21st century?

A proper research on Clara Schumann’s life began only in the 1980s. Since then, it is tried to typecast her into more than two roles. As the comprehensive threepart biography by Berthold Litzmann was published in the beginning of the 20th century, it should take decades until the new biography on Clara Schumann was written by the English author Joan Chissel (published in 1983). She was followed by the American biographer Nancy B. Reich. The biography by Reich was also translated to German.

Up to this time, the composer Clara Schumann fell mainly into oblivion. After Schumann’s death, Clara stopped composing. Until 1856 about two dozens of her works were available in printed version. Besides plays for the piano, also songs, chamber music and a piano concert were printed and published.
Clara wrote her last composition after a break for decades on the occasion of the golden wedding of Julius and Pauline Hübner in 1879. This four-handed march, the also unprinted three choirs by Geibel and Claras sole piano sonata g flat minor were publicized by Gerd Nauhaus according to the autographs in the Robert Schumann Haus in Zwickau (1989-1996).

Thanks to the musicological dissertation of Janina Klassen about “The virtuosa as a composer” (“Die Virtuosin als Komponistin”) in 1990 and the composite recording of her piano works by the Antwerp pianist Jozef de Beenhouwer (1990/1991), Clara Schumann is again present in nowadays concert halls and her distinctive style is accepted. The following pages are supposed to give information on Clara Wieck-Schumann and her outrageous personality, apart from all of her clichés, which were already determined at her lifetime.

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