1838 Vienna

Blick auf Wien
View of Vienna, steel engraving, first half of 19th century (StadtMuseum Bonn)

Besides Paris and London, Vienna was one of the most important city of music in the 19th century. In Vienna, Clara Wieck had to proof that she could persist next to one of the most famous pianist of the first half of the 19th century, Sigismand Thalberg. The young pianist arrived in this metropolis at the beginning of Dec.ember 1837 and her success was unprecedented; it was the first of nine stays in Vienna. Vienna literally fell in love with Clara Wieck and confectioners followed an open call to create a “torte à la Wieck”!

When Clara was sure on the support of her audience, she extended the concert programs on works of Chopin, Bach and Beethoven, which was by all means something of a rarity at that time. Her interpretation of Beethoven’s Appassionata inspired Franz Grillparzer to a poem, and also her rival Franz Liszt was impressed. Her success in concerts resulted in the nomination to imperial and royal chamber virtuosa by Ferdinand I. It was without any doubt a great honor, since she was a woman, foreign and protestant.

The second journey to Vienna was more difficult: Clara went with her husband and the two eldest daughters Marie and Elise in winter 1846/47. The organization of this journey as well as the search for an accommodation strained her a lot and she hardly had time to practice, because she had to take care of the children and her husband. The success of the concerts was moderate, even though the premiered composing of Schumann was favorably received. The fourth and last concert still turned out to be profitable by financial means, but it might have been up to the participation of the famous and admired singer Jenny Lind.

Her next tour to Vienna in 1856, where she gave five concerts, was again crowned with success. She no longer performed works of Schumann in private circles but also presented them in public concerts. Three years later she was even asked to hold three soirées playing exclusively works of Schumann, but the pianist considered this idea as not wise. Clara introduced also compositions of Brahms to the Viennese audience, but they were received the same way as those of Schumann years before. The works were too modern and too unfamiliar. Clara considered the musical state in Vienna as poor and little interesting; she detected shortcomings in the musical education. Apart from concerts, she also gave piano lessons, up to three hours per day.
Further tours to Vienna were also successful. In 1860 she was welcomed by interminable applause and in 1866 she gave six overcrowded concerts and reports about the great heartiness of the Viennese audience to Brahms. The last journey to Vienna took place in 1872, when Clara travelled with the singer Amalie Joachim, few days after her third daughter Julye died. The art seemed to be a survival strategy, especially to deal with loss. These last four Viennese concerts were as well “overfull“ and successful by artistic and financial means.

 (Julia M. Nauhaus, translated by Katharina Ma)

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