Ernst Rudorff (1840–1916)

Ernst Rudorff received his first piano lessons in Berlin by his godmother, Marie Lichtenstein, a friend of Clara Schumann. When the teacher got married and moved to Harz, Ernst was taught by his mother. On the recommendation of Mariane Bargiel Ernst Rudorff’s parents sent him from 1850 to 1857 to Woldemar Bargiel for piano and composing lessons. Bargiel made him familiar with the works of Robert Schumann, and in 1854 he introduced the student to his half-sister, Clara Schumann.

Four years later, Rudorff took a few lessons with the adored artist in Berlin and in 1860 he presented his first compositions to Clara. He dedicated his opus 1, Variations for two pianos, to "Dr. Schumann in deepest reverence." The dedicatee was speaking up at Breitkopf & Härtel for the printing and played the variations in 1866 in Vienna together with Julie von Asten. Clara Schumann supported Rudorff, wherever she could, gave him advice in composing matters and made introduced him to works of other composers, especially those of Brahms.


In December 1863, Rudorff went as assistant of Julius Stockhausen to Hamburg, two years later he took up Bargiel’s job at the Cologne Conservatory. From 1869 onwards, Rudorff taught at the Berlin Academy, where Bargiel was also appointed in 1874. Both were members of the senate of the Royal Academy of Arts in Berlin and worked on the complete edition of Chopin’s works. In 1880 they competed for the succession in the conduction of Max Bruch's Stern Choral Society, which was then transferred to Rudorff - a painful decision for Bargiel, because Rudorff was younger and also one of his former students. From July 1882 onwards, Rudorff was head of piano and organ classes at the Berlin University. He and Clara Schumann had also common students. Clara appreciated Rudorff’s pedagogical skills so highly that she entrusted him with the education of her ​​daughter Eugenie.


The relationship between Clara Schumann and Ernst Rudorff was a close one. Already in 1862, Clara asked the younger to assist her daughter Elise in searching for piano students and Rudorff’s parents temporarily took care of the youngest child of Schumann, Felix. For Ferdinand's daughter Julie, Clara asked for concert tickets. Rudorff not only worked on the Chopin Complete Edition, but also on the revisions of operas by Carl Maria von Weber and took part in the Mozart Complete Edition of the Royal Academy of Arts.

However, he gratefully declined Clara Schumann’s request to participate in the edition of the complete works of Robert Schumann, due to his workload. In later years Clara Schumann often regretted that she so rarely saw  her friend, but the contact maintained in correspondences until Clara Schumann's death. Rudorff deeply revered and admired Clara Schumann.


(J.M.N., translated by Katharina Ma)

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