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

Friedrich Wieck, father of Clara Schumann, painting from around 1828<br> (Robert Schumann House in Zwickau)
Friedrich Wieck, father of Clara Schumann, painting from around 1828
(Robert Schumann House in Zwickau)

Friedrich Wieck grew up as the son of a merchant in the small town of Pretzsch by the river Elbe, located between Torgau and Wittenberg. After only a short stay at St Thomas School in Leipzig, he went to grammar school in Torgau and subsequently studied theology in Wittenberg. His musical training was highly unsystematic. After the obligatory trial sermon in Dresden, he did not seek a parish office but became a private tutor. He spent the following nine years with various noble families in Thuringia. Wieck was a conscientious and good teacher; he applied various progressive education methods with his pupils, such as those of Rousseau, Basedow and Pestalozzi. When and where Wieck studied composition is still not clear to this day. In 1815, however, he sent some songs to Carl Maria von Weber, who reviewed the compositions in detail. After that, Wieck had the works printed.

At the age of 30, Wieck gave up his position as private tutor and looked around for a new field of activity. With the financial support of a friend, he settled in Leipzig as a piano teacher and owner of a piano and music shop before 1815. The ambitious Friedrich Wieck ran his company until his departure for Dresden in 1840, letting, tuning, repairing and selling pianos. In addition, he also sold and let sheet music, music books and magazines. From 1820, Wieck regularly travelled 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 into a marriage, advantageous for him, with Mariane Tromlitz, to whom he was married until 1825. From the beginning, he pursued the objective of a concert career for their common daughter Clara as a piano virtuoso. Thanks to his teaching skills, he indeed managed to train Clara to become a famous pianist. He had similar success with the pianist training of Marie Wieck, his daughter from the second marriage. In 1828, Friedrich Wieck married the 23-year-old Clementine Fechner (1805-1893), a daughter of the pastor Samuel Traugott Fechner. In the 1830s, whilst Friedrich Wieck was on concert tours with Clara for months at a time, Clementine took care of the children, the household and the business. Friedrich Wieck gave her many tasks to do, even from afar, which she performed patiently and proficiently. Clara had a rather distanced relationship with her stepmother.

From 1830, Robert Schumann lived in the house of the Wiecks where he took piano lessons with Friedrich Wieck, who actually highly appreciated the young man. However, he would not accept Schumann as son-in-law by no means whatsoever and Clara and Robert therefore had to obtain their marriage licence through the courts. For Clara, the years before the marriage meant a hard struggle between her 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 then focused on the training of Clara's half-sister Marie to make her a pianist, and also had other successful pupils, such as Hans von Bülow.

In 1840, Friedrich Wieck moved to Dresden and studied singing methods with John Miksch to expand his educational work. His most successful singing pupil was Minna Schulz.
Friedrich Wieck saw the “Friedrich Wieck Foundation”, established by his pupils on his 86th birthday to promote indigent but artistically talented youths, as the culmination of his work as a music teacher. His children Alwin and Marie Wieck continued his work as a piano teacher.

Frederick Wieck died in Loschwitz near Dresden in 1873. Clara Schumann had all her life been grateful to her father for what he had done for her and always came to his defence against unjust criticism. After his death, she wrote in her diary: “[His nature had something great, far from any pettiness; he was always ready to help wherever he could be of use; even more than that, he sought opportunities to do so, being always most interested in discovering new talents and then he would never ask for praise and thanks.]” In a letter to the writer La Mara, Clara Schumann described the upbringing by her father, who had not only focused on her artistic training but also on her physical education and walked with Clara several hours daily - a habit she maintained throughout her life. Clara Schumann wrote: “[To my sorrow, I must say that my father was never recognised as much as he deserved it! I even thank him for his so-called cruelties all my life. How would I ever have been able to practise art and continue to live with all the heavy blows I had to suffer, if my constitution had not been so healthy and strong thanks to my father’s care?]” In 1894, she wrote to a Dr Wilkinson about the concerns she had about her piano pupil Ilona Eibenschütz. In particular, she was worried about the latter’s health, and in this context she also said about her father: “[...] she is missing a sensible father by her side, as I was lucky enough to have, who would watch over her health and make sure that she goes for long walks, never accepts invitations to late events, never practices too much in a row, does nothing else but rest in the afternoons before evening concerts, in short, someone who would guard her. People would, of course, call him a tyrant, as my father had to put up with, but I am still grateful to him every day; I owe him my vigour that remained until old age (at least in art)!]”

(Julia M. Nauhaus, translated by Thomas Henninger)

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