Mathilde Hartmann (1817‒1902)

When Clara and Robert Schumann moved to Düsseldorf in 1850, they were officially greeted on 7th September with a concert of the General Music Society: There, the soprano Mathilde Hartmann from Düsseldorf was one of the participating artists, singing Schumann’s song “Dedication” (Op. 25, No. 1); moreover, the songs “The lotus flower” (Op. 25, No. 7), and “Wandering song” (Op. 35, No. 3) were performed and also the Overture to Genoveva, Op. 81, and Part II of Paradise and the Peri, Op. 50. As early as 16th September 1850, Schumann noted in his Housekeeping Book a visit to the singer’s house, of which there were many more to come. Meetings took place not only at the rehearsals for the concerts of the General Music Society, now under the direction of Robert Schumann, but also at private performances, such as a “gathering at the house of Miss Hartmann” on 19th October 1851, as documented in Schumann’s Housekeeping Book. The singer appeared several times in the subscription concerts, inter alia, as a soloist at the premiere of Schumann’s Advent Song, Op. 71, on 24th October 1850.

But apart from that, Mathilde Hartmann soon became a private confidante of the Schumanns, who for instance, moved Robert’s room to the quieter courtyard side and arranged it nicely because he had felt disturbed by the constant road noise at their new lodging; they also went on trips together in the surroundings of Düsseldorf. In 1853, Mathilde Hartmann accompanied Robert and Clara Schumann on their concert trip to the Netherlands and took part in four of the concerts. Schumann dedicated his Op. 119: Three Poems from the Forest Songs by Gustav Pfarrius, composed in 1851 (and published in 1853), to her.

The close relationship with the Schumanns is also documented by the godparenthood for the youngest son Felix (1854-1879) and her visits to the sanatorium in Endenich: Unlike Clara, Mathilde Hartmann was able to see Robert Schumann: “[Mathilde came today from Bonn and brought me again flowers, carnations and roses, which he had picked himself and given to Miss Reumont! […] Mathilde had seen him as well … she was standing with Miss Reumont behind a curtain and so was able to see him speak and could see him very clearly; she told me she had never found him looking so lively and fresh, with that very special gentle smile on his lips – How much I envy Mathilde […].]” (quoted after Seibold, p. 111). After Robert Schumann’s death, Clara handed the singer the handwritten manuscript of Op. 119 with the dedication: “[To Mathilde Hartmann: the original handwriting of the songs dedicated to her by Robert Schumann, in loving memory presented to her by Clara Schumann, Düsseldorf, 26th September 1856]”.

Only very little is known about Mathilde Hartmann’s biography and training. She presumably appeared mainly in the 1850s, as suggested by various concert reviews, most frequently in Düsseldorf (inter alia, in the subscription concerts of the Music Society and at the 31st and 33rd Lower Rhine Music Festivals in 1853/1855), but also in Cologne, Bad Kreuznach, Elberfeld (together with Clara Schumann in 1851), in Barmen (at her own soirée in 1853 and in a concert of Carl Reinecke and Clara Schumann in 1855), and in Trier (again in a concert of Clara Schumann in 1863). According to Niederrheinische Musik-Zeitung für Kunstfreunde und Künstler [Lower Rhine Music Journal for Art Lovers and Artists] (10.02.1855, p. 45), in the winter of 1854, Mathilde Hartmann received further training from the Stockholm singing teacher Isaak Berg, with whom Jenny Lind had also taken lessons. Mathilde Hartmann also performed during Clara Schumann’s concert tours, in the Netherlands in 1853, as mentioned above, and in England in 1856.

Cf. Robert Schumann, Tagebücher, Vol. III: Haushaltbücher, Part 2: 1847–1856, edited by Gerd Nauhaus, Leipzig, 1982, pp. 538, 575.

Cf. Wolfgang Seibold: Familie, Freunde, Zeitgenossen. Die Widmungsträger der Schumannschen Werke (= Schumann-Studien 5), Sinzig, 2008, pp. 109‒112.

Cf. on some of Mathilde Hartmann’s appearances: Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, No. 40 of 15th November 1850, p. 219; Signale für die musikalische Welt, Year 11, No. 8, February 1853, p. 61; Signale für die musikalische Welt, Year 13, No. 12, March 1855, p. 93; Niederrheinische Musik-Zeitung für Kunstfreunde und Künstler, Year 4, No. 12 of 12th July 1856, p. 224.

(Theresa Schlegel, 2020, translated by Thomas Henninger, 2020)

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