1850–1857 Düsseldorf

Covered with high expectations the couple moved in December 1850 from Dresden to Düsseldorf, where Robert Schumann, who found employment as music director. He and Clara were welcomed with admiration and respect, but they had problems with finding a proper apartment at the beginning. The first apartment Alleestraße corner Grabenstraße was expensive, not comfortable and noisy, so that Robert wasn’t able to compose. Clara was meanwhile bothered by tardy and rude craftsmen.

Der erste Wohnsitz der Familie Schumann in Düsseldorf
corner Alleestraße/Grabenstraße, the first residence of the Schumanns in Düsseldorf The old postcard has subtitles: Wohnhaus d. Componisten Schumann (apartment building of Schumann) (fig.: city archives Düsseldorf)

In July 1851 the family moved to a more beautiful and more spacious apartment in the Königsallee, but unfortunately they had to leave this place again in April 1852. After a short stay in Herzogstraße, they finally found a very generous shaped flat in the Bilker Straße, where Clara had her own working room that was far away enough from Robert’s, so that she could practice the piano without bothering him. Finally she found time again for composing. Already at the end of the first concert season, it came to a very tense situation with the music orchestra. In fact, Clara tried the best to support her husband at the rehearsal work, but the mental overstrain by his conducting work came more and more into notice.

Letzte gemeinsame Wohnung von Clara und Robert Schumann
Bilker Straße 15: last joint apartment of Clara and Robert Schumann (fig: city archive Düsseldorf)

Clara gave concerts in Düsseldorf and surrounding cities and received good reviews. She also gathered a circle of students, coming from Weimar, Braunschweig, Hamburg and other cities to Düsseldorf to get piano lessons from the famous Clara Schumann. The circle of friends of the Schumanns was mainly similar to the Dresdner friends painters, doctors and historians. In Düsseldorf the youngest two of the children were born: Eugenie and Felix. In 1852, the condition of Robert Schumann worsened. Although he conducted a concert in May 1853 at the Niederrheinisch music festival, the management of the music orchestra announced that Schumann should only conduct his own works. Thereupon he de facto quit his engagement (his successor Julius Tausch was employed not until 1855) and started a concert tour with Clara to Holland. Before that, on September 30th, 1853, Schumann was made acquainted with the young Johannes Brahms on recommendation of his friend Joseph Joachim. Brahms left a permanent impression on Schumann. He wrote his enthusiastic essay "Neue Bahnen"and spoke for the young compose at various publishing houses in Leipzig.
In February 1854, he committed a suicide attempt and was delivered on his own wish to the sanatorium of Dr. Richarz in Bonn-Endenich. At this moment, Clara was advanced in pregnancy; Felix was born in June 1854, without ever meeting with his father. In the following two years, Johannes Brahms became very important for Clara, he supported and comforted her and was a really good friend, who visited Schumann several times in the sanatorium and he took care of the housekeeping in Düsseldorf and the children, when Clara was out of town.
The pianist revisited her concert tours to maintain the palimony of the family. The doctors forbid her to visit her husband, the last time she saw him was two days before he deceased.

Letzte Düsseldorfer Wohnung von Clara Schumann
Poststraße 1315 (today: Poststraße 25). Last apartmentof Clara Schumann in Düsseldorf, she moved into this apartment after her husband was delivered to the sanatorium. (fig: city archive Düsseldorf)

After that Clara Schumann had to leave the official residence and moved with her children to Poststraße. On October 1st in 1857 she left Düsseldorf and drew a line under a stage of her life that began promising but ended in deep sorrow and desperation. At the age of 36 Clara Schumann was left back as a widow with seven children and had to deal with the loss of her beloved husband.

(Julia M. Nauhaus, translated by Katharina Ma)

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