1856 ff., 1888 London

London, von Greenwich aus gesehen
London, view from Greenwich, steel engraving ,1879 (StadtMuseum Bonn)

Allthough Clara Wieck-Schumann conquered music metropolises such as Paris and Vienna as as a young girl, it took long time until she travelled to the third European hotspot of music, where any musician in the 19th century had to have success.

Clara Schumann travelled for the first time to London in 1856 – Schumann was still alive. The English composer William Sterndale Bennett, who got to know Robert Schumann in Leipzig in 1836 and shortly after that heard Clara’s piano playing, invited the couple many times to come to London. Due to various reasons the couple never managed to cross the English Channel, last time in 1853 when Clara was pregnant.


Although she was dealing with homesickness and fears because of Robert's bad state of health, England was strange to the her and she was not fond at all of the English musical conditions, she endured three months in this country and gave 26 concerts in London, Manchester, Liverpool and Dublin. She made no concessions to public taste and put compositions by Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Chopin and Schumann on the program. The critics had divided opinions, but she was well received by the audience and made ​​many important contacts.

In 1857 and 1859 further trips to England followed, firstly assumably because of financial reasons, since she had to Mayntain her life and her seven children. Most of the time, she traveled from April to June/July and stayed 2 ½ to 3 months in England. After 1865 she shifted the beginning of her stays to the end of January. From 1876 onwards Clara shortened her stays in London to 5 to 6 weeks. Her first tours included concerts in other cities, later she restricted her performances to London. Since her first performance of Schumann's piano concerto foand very few sympathy, she did not put it on the program until 1865.

 

This fourth tour to England was considered as her breakthrough with critics and audiences by her biographer Berthold Litzmann. Clara Schumann learned to appreciate nature of the English and from 1868 onwards she stayed in the house of wealthy businessman Arthur Burnand and his sister, where she held soirees for invited guests. Clara Schumann performed at the Crystal Palace, in the Musical Union, but especially in the so-called 'Popular concerts'. These were held in the St. James's Hall that has a capacity for more than 2000 listeners and were conducted over 40 years by Arthur Chappell, who made ​​sure that the ticket prices reMayned unchanged low, thus less financially well-off people could attend the concerts.

Between 1866 and 1888 Clara performed over 100 times in these "Popular concerts", for the first time in May 1865, when Chappell arranged a Schumann evening. She often performed together with Joseph Joachim, her students and other musicians with whom she also introduced Schumann's chamber music in England. When Clara Schumann bid farewell to the audience in 1888– during her 19th stay in England – with the performance of Schumann’s Carnaval, she became a dominant element in the music world and a London "season" without her was hardly imaginable.


(Julia M. Nauhaus, translated by Katharina Ma)


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