Sophie Kaskel, married Countess von Baudissin (1817–1894)

The composer, pianist and writer Sophie Kaskel, born in Dresden, was taught the piano by Adolph Henselt and Johann Peter Pixis and was also taught composition by Ferdinand Hiller. Her parents, of Jewish denomination, had Sophie and her brother baptised Protestant in 1824. Sophie Kaskel presumably only performed in private circles in Dresden, particularly at the upper-class music gatherings at her parents’ house and at the house of her brother, the banker and composer Carl Kaskel. Her family was in contact with many musicians of the time, especially those from Leipzig and Dresden, but also with the Wiecks, Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann, Frédéric Chopin, and Giacomo Meyerbeer. In 1840, after an unfortunate infatuation with Henselt, Sophie Kaskel married Count Wolf Heinrich von Baudissin (1789-1878), who was a diplomat in the Civil Service of Denmark and worked as a writer and translator from 1827; he contributed, inter alia, to the translation of Shakespeare by Tieck and Schlegel. The couple lived in Dresden and also in a villa in Wachwitz near Dresden and provided a meeting place for many artists. Sophie Kaskel published several compositions at the beginning of the 1840s and was an author of books for children and young people during her marriage. It was only after the death of her husband that she continued to compose; she published more works from 1884.

Sophie Kaskel and Clara Wieck made friends in the 1830s. When Clara Wieck went on a concert trip to Dresden in the winter of 1830/31, she also performed at a music gathering at the house of Count Baudissin, who at the time was still married to Friederike Juliane von Baudissin (1784-1836) in his first marriage, and sent him her Op. 1 shortly afterwards. Between May and September 1834, Clara Wieck was in Dresden again to take singing and theory lessons. It was presumably at that time, or earlier, in 1831, that she met Sophie Kaskel at the local gatherings of the Kaskels and Baudissins. The two played together, four hands, but Clara Wieck also noted in her diary on 17th May 1834: “[I played Chopin’s Concerto, the Notturno and his Études, also my single-movement Concerto, and I sang a song. After I had played the pieces by Chopin, Sophie Kaskel completely lost interest in opening the piano again.]” (Jugendtagebücher [Youth Diaries], pp. 159 f.). Sophie Kaskel was “delighted” by Clara Wieck’s playing (ibid., p. 160) and Clara, in turn, praised her as a “proficient dilettante” (ibid., p. 161).

In 1836, Clara Wieck went on another concert trip to Dresden, where she also visited the “little piano gatherings” of the Court Conductor Carl Gottlieb Reißiger (1798-1859), taking place every two weeks, and moved the listeners with her playing (by heart) to tears (cf. ibid., p. 207). The members of these “little piano gatherings”, where piano and chamber music works were performed in a private circle, also included Sophie Kaskel. Clara commented on her playing at her parents’ house: “[Sophie Kaskel played a few pieces and proved to be the most soulful player here. She has also a lot of talent for composition.]” (ibid., p. 211). A little funny anecdote says that Sophie Kaskel attended a subscribed play in Dresden on 9th February 1836 in Clara’s place, so that Clara could secretly meet with Robert Schumann (which would annoy Friedrich Wieck enormously).

Clara Wieck dedicated Quatre pièces caractéristiques, Op. 5, to her friend. When Clara and Robert Schumann moved to Dresden in 1844, they were regular guests at the Baudissin’s house, and Sophie also became the godmother of Ludwig Schumann, born in 1848.

Cf. Clara Wieck, Jugendtagebücher 1827‒1840, edited by Gerd Nauhaus and Nancy B. Reich, with the collaboration of Kristin R.M. Krahe, Hildesheim, 2019.
Cf. Silke Wenzel: Article “Sophie von Baudissin”, in: MUGI. Musikvermittlung und Genderforschung: Lexikon und multimediale Präsentationen, edited by Beatrix Borchard and Nina Noeske, Hamburg University of Music and Theatre, 2003 ff. (as at 09.08.2010). Online at: [02.09.2020].

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

Die von uns eingesetzten und einsetzbaren Cookies stellen wir Ihnen unter dem Link Cookie-Einstellungen in der Datenschutzerklärung vor. Voreingestellt werden nur zulässige Cookies, für die wir keine Einwilligung benötigen. Weiteren funktionellen Cookies können Sie gesondert in den Cookie-Einstellungen oder durch Bestätigung des Buttons "Akzeptieren" zustimmen.