Wilhelmine Clauß-Szárvády (1834–1907)

Born in Prague, the Bohemian German Wilhelmine Clauß studied with the renowned piano teacher Josef Proksch and was promoted by Karoline Unger-Sabatier. Clara and Robert Schumann met her in Dresden in August 1847, and Schumann noted in his Housekeeping Book: “the little Clauß from Prague studying with Clara - very talented.]” On 7th February 1850, Clara secured her a “good debut” at the Leipzig Gewandhaus concert hall, by withdrawing from her own performance in favour of Clauß; at a soirée on 22nd February 1850, she played together with Wilhelmine Schumann’s Andante and Variations, Op. 46.

In January 1854, the Schumanns met again Wilhelmine Clauß, who lived in Paris since 1852, in Hanover. In this connection, she was at one point called a “troublemaker”, when Clara seemed to be displeased. Nevertheless, she performed with her and Joseph Joachim. Schumann noted that her presentation of compositions by Stephen Heller and of a Beethoven Sonata had been excellent and called the attractive young artist a “charming little devil”. Clara’s resentment may well be interpreted as jealousy, because she had noted in her diary as early as 9th April 1853 that Wilhelmine Clauß celebrated triumphs with Schumann’s Piano Quintet in Paris, and continued: “[... but I was saddened that it had to be her to present Robert’s new works in Paris and London, whilst that honour should, before all others, have come to me!]”

It was indeed the merit of Wilhelmine Clauß to be the first to acquaint Western Europe with Schumann’s compositions. Despite this jealousy, further concerts of Clara Schumann and Wilhelmine Clauß took place; in 1855, Clauß married the Hungarian writer Frédéric Szarvady (1822-1882) in Paris.

On Clara’s third concert tour in Paris, they both performed together, once at one of Clara’s soirées, where they performed Mozart’s Sonata in D major for two pianos, and another time on 16th March 1863 at the second musical soirée of Wilhelmine Clauß in the Pleyel salons, when they played a selection from Schumann’s Piano Pieces four hands, Op. 85, and again the Andante and Variations, Op. 46.

The last joint concert took place on 26th June 1865 in Bad Kreuznach, where Schumann’s Op. 46 was once more interpreted by the two pianists. On 10th November of the same year, 1865, Clara Schumann filled in for Wilhelmine in Frankfurt (by the river Main). As a result, they were both regarded as perfectly equal to each other.

A precious gift Clara Schumann made to Wilhelmine Clauß-Szarvady proved that the grudge against her colleague had been of a temporary nature only: the autograph of Schumann’s Carnival Scenes from Vienna, Op. 26 (first and third movement; held today at the Robert Schumann House in Zwickau). Wilhelmine had received it with a dedication by Clara during her stay in Paris in 1863.

(J.M.N., translated by Th. H.)

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