Mariane Wieck-Bargiel, née Tromlitz (1797–1872), mother of Clara Schumann

Mariane Bargiel, photographical reproduction based on a painting
Mariane Bargiel, photographical reproduction based on a painting

Mariane Tromlitz was the granddaughter of the famous flute virtuoso Johann Georg Tromlitz and a daughter of the Plauen Cantor Georg Christian Gotthold Tromlitz. Mariane was first a pupil of Friedrich Wieck, before she married him in 1816 at the age of nineteen. The talented musician sang solo parts in the weekly Leipzig Gewandhaus concerts as early as the first year of her marriage. She also continued to take piano lessons; she actually played the piano better than her husband, whose reputation as a businessman and piano teacher grew as a result of Mariane’s artistic success.

Like her husband, Mariane taught the piano and singing. She also took care of the household and gave birth to five children during her marriage to Friedrich Wieck, of whom two (Adelheid and Viktor) died at an early age. On 12th May 1824, Mariane left her husband and returned with her four-and-a-half-year-old daughter Clara and the three-month-old infant Viktor to her parents in Plauen.

According to Saxon law, the three oldest children belonged to the father, and so Clara was allowed to stay with her mother and grandparents only until her fifth birthday. Mariane and Friedrich Wieck were divorced on 22nd January 1825. Although Mariane knew that the divorce would reflect badly on her and that she would lose her children, she found herself forced to take this step, as she was apparently no longer able to endure the marriage to Friedrich Wieck. Wieck could be very gruff and irascible at times, he constantly controlled his wife and to a certain extent also exploited her. The burdens of pregnancy, practising under Wieck’s instructions, performing as a singer and a pianist, teaching, helping in the business and the care for friends and business partners all demanded a lot from the young woman. Mariane had already been in contact with Adolph Bargiel at the time of her marriage, and possibly also took piano lessons with him. She married him in August 1825. As long as Mariane was still living in Leipzig with her second husband, she was allowed to see her children, including Clara.

When Adolph Bargiel took over a piano school in Berlin, the contact became sparser due to the distance. Although Clara corresponded with her mother and met up with her from time to time, Friedrich Wieck was the main caregiver from then on. In Adolph Bargiel, Mariane had found a gentle and loving man but, unfortunately, with little business sense. He had had a very solid musical training but after he was forced to close the piano school in 1830 due to a cholera epidemic and soon after that suffered a stroke, Mariane had to feed the family – she had four more children with Bargiel – through laborious teaching. Now and then, she had to ask for financial help from friends, later also from Clara and Robert Schumann. She devotedly cared for her husband until his death.

Clara became closer to her mother again only when in 1839 the break with her father was no longer avoidable and Clara was accommodated at her home in Berlin. Robert Schumann had a very good relationship with Mariane Bargiel. The latter often came to see Clara and temporarily also took care of some of her grandchildren after Schumann's death; before that, she had already looked after Julie from 1854, that is, the year of Robert Schumann’s admission to the sanatorium in Endenich.

(Julia M. Nauhaus, translated by Thomas Henninger)

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