Student Project - Clara and Robert Schumann in Dresden

Robert Schumann had imagined musical life in Dresden in quite a different way. He wrote in one of his letters: “[Their plaits are still hanging heavily]”. But when he walked across the Brühl Terrace, encountered the composer Richard Wagner in the Great Garden or listened to the opera Fidelio at the Court Theatre, he felt comfortable in Dresden.

Schumann research at the Institute of Art Research and Musicology of the Technical University of Dresden started during the winter semester of 2007/2008 with a seminar on “Robert and Clara Schumann in Dresden”, organised by Professor Hans-Günter Ottenberg. The idea of a student research project was born, dealing with the issue whether today, 160 years after their departure, traces of the Schumanns would still be found in Dresden – in the town itself, in the concert schedules of the large music institutions, and in the minds of the citizens.
Kammersänger Professor Peter Schreier could be won as the patron for this project. The first results were presented at a conference on the subject of “Robert and Clara Schumann in Dresden – Biographical, Compositional and Sociocultural Aspects”, held in May 2008, organised by the Institute of Art Research and Musicology of the Technical University of Dresden. Various aspects were discussed, such as the Schumanns’ circle of friends, the compositions created in Dresden, concert activities, or their living conditions.

The objective of the project was and is to establish the topicality of the relation between the Schumanns and Dresden. As a result, three working groups were formed which are introduced below. The primary concern of working group 1 is the search for traces of the Schumanns in the current appearance of the town of Dresden. Along with the conference mentioned above, held in Dresden in May 2008 on “Robert and Clara Schumann in Dresden”, a one-hour guided tour of the town was further organised for the speakers, Schumann researchers, and the Dresden public. In the process, important stations of the Schumanns in the town centre were walked along and highlighted by means of various information, images and quotations from, for instance, their housekeeping books or letters. Working group 1 had set up a special information leaflet for the tour with a labelled map section of the town centre and the various stations which were visited during the tour. These included, for instance, the Hotel de Saxe, today Steigenberger Hotel, which was the performance place of the premiere of Schumann’s piano concerto. A bronze bust, the only Schumann memorial in the town centre of Dresden, was also located during the tour.

Working group 2 had the aim to take a closer look at the preservation of Schumann’s memory in Dresden since 1850, the year of the Schumanns’ departure, and with regard to special Schumann anniversaries, such as those of 1906, 1910, 1956, 1960, 2006, and 2010. Important issues raised were: Is there a particular Schumann awareness found in Dresden? Are Clara’s compositions being performed as well? What is performed most frequently? Are there any particular “Dresden works”? In addition, the programmes of well-known music institutions were examined and statistically recorded, such as of the Saxon State Orchestra of Dresden, the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra, the University Orchestra of the Technical University of Dresden, the Dresden Choral Society, the Boys’ Choir of the Church of the Holy Cross, the Dresden Music Festivals, the Carl Maria von Weber Academy of Music in Dresden, and of the Heinrich Schütz Academy of Music.

Working group 3 attempted to reactivate the memory of Dresden citizens of the Schumanns by means of a small questionnaire. For this survey which was to generate results as spectral as possible, the group decided on two different types of institutions in and around Dresden: cultural institutions, represented by the Semper Opera House and Concert Hall and by the Palace of Culture, and educational institutions, represented by the Technical University of Dresden and by four grammar schools of different profiles. A total of 673 men and women of all age categories took part in the survey. The youngest participant was 15 years old, and the oldest one was 81. Along with the survey, scholars and Dresden musicians were interviewed also, to whom the life and music of Robert and Clara Schumann was of particular importance in their work.

Apart from these three working groups, individual participants in the project dealt with special topics, such as music life in Dresden, the family and domestic circumstances of the Schumanns, their circle of friends, Clara’s role as a mother, wife, pianist and composer, and the creation of compositions. This is to ensure that our project covers all fully as possible the issues raised on the subject of “Robert and Clara Schuman in Dresden”, and that our work recalls to local public memory the artist couple Robert and Clara Schumann.

Within the scope of the Robert Schumann Festival in Dresden, celebrated with great success at the Great Garden Palace in Dresden in July 2010, new results were also published in the form of an exhibition. This cooperation with the Saxon Vocal Ensemble, the organiser of the Robert Schumann Festival Dresden in 2010, and the office of the Great Garden, marked an important highlight of the project.

As a follow-up to the exhibition “Robert and Clara Schumann in Dresden” which was opened at the Great Garden Palace in Dresden on 8th June 2010, a book describing all the results is published 2014.

(Sara Kumbarji and Rita Sosedow, 2010 | Translation: Th. Henninger, 2014)

Technische Universität Dresden [Technical University of Dresden]
Philosophische Fakultät
Institut für Kunst- und Musikwissenschaft
August-Bebel-Straße 20
01219 Dresden

Prof. Dr. Hans-Günter Ottenberg
Tel: +49 351 463-3 57 09
Fax: +49 351 463-3 57 01

Sara Kumbarji, Rita Sosedow

Dr. Wolfgang Mende

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