Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient (1804-1860)

Young Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient, steel engraving (StadtMuseum Bonn)
Young Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient, steel engraving (StadtMuseum Bonn)

Clara met the most important German singer-actress of the 19th Century in 1832, when the two of them performed together in Paris. They remained friends for all their life and often met, especially when Clara and Robert Schumann moved to Dresden in 1844.

When 20 year old Clara saw Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient as Leonore in Beethoven's Fidelio, she wrote, "This is a powerful woman - my ideal in (this) art," but the singer also admired the pianist. When she married the royal Saxon officer, Herr von Döring and left Dresden in 1847, she wrote to Clara: "How deeply I adore you as a woman and as an artist and you must have to read this in my eyes." Since Wilhelmina's marriage failed almost immediately, she returned to Dresden in 1848. On 14 October 1848 she sang at a private soiree for the first time the complete cycle of Schumann's "Frauenliebe und Leben" to poems by Adelbert Chamisso, of which she owned the original manuscript. In the 1848/49 concert season Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient contributed in five concerts, organized by Clara Schumann and the concertmaster Franz Schubert in Dresden.

During a joint concert tour with Schumanns to Leipzig in January 1849, Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient offered the singer to Clara Schumann to address each other informally. Soon after that, Wilhelmine had to flee because  of her participation in the May uprising in Dresden. The singer went to Paris and withdrew from giving concerts. Until 1853, Clara and Wilhelmine kept contactand wrote each other letters, but then the correspondence stopped, presumably due to Wilhelmine’s frequent change of residence.

In November 1855, the artists met again in Berlin. A further encounter took place in April 1858. Although the singer's voice was no longer ‘safe’, she planned a comeback and in 1858/59 she asked Clara whether she would like to perform with her. The pianist advised strongly against it, but after long consideration she agreed in a joint public performance. The offer was too late: After the last concert on 6 March 1859 in Leipzig, the health state of the singer worsened, and she also suffered from depression. Her last letter to Clara, in which she complained that she had no time, was written on 12 March 1859. Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient did not succeed to bring her desire of "bringing the German song to honor" into action.

She died on 26 January 1860. Despite the dissonances in the last period of their friendship, Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient remained Clara Schumann's ideal artist. The care of the German song was taken over by the young Stockhausen, who listened to Schumann songs performed by Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient as 26-year-old. One year after her death, he sang the to her dedicated Schumann cycle Dichterliebe (poet’s love) for the first time in public.

(J.M.N., translated by Katharina Ma)

Cp. also

 [ Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient ]

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