Heinrich Heine (1797–1856)

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (engraving, cf. StadtMuseum Bonn, SMB 2003/44 )

Heinrich Heine heard Clara Wieck play on her concert tour in Paris in 1832. A friend of Heine’s from his Hamburg period, Johann Peter Lyser, who was also friends with Robert Schumann and worked for his journal, wrote an article on Clara Wieck’s trip to Paris, which was published in 1833 in his Cäcilia. Ein Taschenbuch für die Freunde der Tonkunst [Cecilia. A Pocketbook for the Friends of Music Art]. In her diary, Clara supposed that this article was “[probably based on a letter by Heine in Paris]” (Jugendtagebücher [Youth Diaries], p. 131) which, however, could not be verified. Lyser wrote about Clara’s unusual artistic maturity that it went beyond the category of prodigy. That, quite the contrary, “[the spirit of this strange person made its own path, she learnt, one would say, just by playing, but she still pursued this playful learning with a lot of passion]” (Cäcilia, p. 256), that she could be placed on the same level as the pianists Anna de Belleville (1808-1880) and Leopoldine Blahetka (1809-1885), and that she would surpass them in a few years’ time. That this was because Clara Wieck was able to comprehend and master even the most demanding compositions, that she played them by heart and with such an expression which would not be expected from her otherwise childlike appearance. “[It is as if the child knew how to tell a long story, woven from air and pain, but, still – what does she know exactly? – Music.]” (ibid., p. 258).

When Clara Wieck went on another concert trip to Paris in 1839, now without being accompanied by her father and for a duration of several months, she met Heinrich Heine through Giacomo Meyerbeer. On 28th March, when she was invited to dinner at Meyerbeer’s home, she described Heine, who was present there, as “[melancholy and unhappy because he anticipates the tragedy of losing his eyesight; otherwise, he is also said to be often in a very good mood and then to be simply irresistibly amiable. He spoke about Germany with much bitterness.]” (Jugendtagebücher, p. 325).

Robert Schumann, who met Heine in Munich on 8th May 1828 (the only time) in person, set poems by Heine to music in the song cycles Song Cycle [Liederkreis], Op 24 (published in 1840), and A Poet’s Love (published in 1844). The songs composed in 1840 were tried out in the private circle of Robert Schumann, Clara Wieck and Felix Mendelssohn in Berlin in the spring of 1840: “[In Berlin, we spent a few hours on the piano which I found unforgettable. I have written a lot for voices lately. He [Mendelssohn] sang everything with the piano accompaniment of my bride (who plays well, as you perhaps know) in a way that I really felt blissful.]” (Schumann to Eduard Krüger, 15th May 1840, quoted after Jansen, p. 163).

Clara Schumann set a few poems by Heine to music at the beginning of the 1840s, two of which were published in her Op. 13, Six Songs with accompaniment on the pianoforte. Clara Schumann presented “They loved each other” (Op. 13, No. 2) and “Lorelei” (WoO) to Robert on his birthdays in June 1842 and 1843.

Cf. Clara Wieck, Jugendtagebücher 1827‒1840, edited by Gerd Nauhaus and Nancy B. Reich, with the collaboration of Kristin R.M. Krahe, Hildesheim, 2019, p. 413, notes 5 and 6.

Cf. Johann Peter Lyser: “Clara Wiek” [sic], in: Cäcilia. Ein Taschenbuch für die Freunde der Tonkunst, Year 1, 1833, pp. 251–256.

Cf. Robert Schumann’s Briefe. Neue Folge, edited by F. Gustav Jansen, Leipzig, 1886.

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

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