Clara Schumann

Clara Schumann

Clara Schumann (birth name Clara Josephine Wieck) was a German Composer and Pianist. She was known for her extraordinary piano skills and for her collaborations with Johannes Brahms.

Clara Schumann was born in Leipzig, Germany on September 13, 1819. When she was five years old, her parents divorced and Clara lived with her father. Clara’s father arranged for highly technical music lessons while she was only a child. Some sources state that together with the piano and the violin, she was even taught counterpoint and harmony along with the basic music theory. She was highly talented and she kept up with all her lessons, so much so that her performances at Dr. Ernst Carus’s residence earned her the title of “Child-Prodigy” at the tender age of eight. Dr. Ernst Carus’s residence was also where she met Robert Schumann, a man whom she would marry in 1840. By age eleven, Clara was already playing concerts at the Leipzig Gewandhaus and Weimar.

From 1837 to 1838, Clara performed a series of recitals in Vienna that would make her highly famous. Her ability to play noticeably difficult pieces at such a young age earned her praise and acclaim of various distinguished composers including Franz Grillparzer and Benedict Randhartinger. Even Franz Liszt could not escape her growing popularity; after listening to one of her performances, Liszt praised her in a prestigious Leipzig Journal called “Neue Zeitschrift für Musik”. Her performances in Vienna earned her the title of “Royal and Imperial Chamber Virtuoso” by Austria’s elite. Many historians note that her concerts included works from Henselt, Herz, Pixis, Czerny, Kalkbrenner, Chopin, Schubert, Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. However, Clara also left her audience in awe by including many of her own compositions in her recitals at Vienna.

Clara also bolstered the career of both her husband Robert Schumann and collaborator Johannes Brahms by playing their pieces in her recitals. Her selfless efforts in promoting the music of those close to her, and her tireless work in raising her children and in organizing her own concerts and performances earned her great respect in society. Her life was greatly plagued by tragedy; she gave birth to eight children, out of whom only four would survive. Her husband had a mental breakdown and he attempted suicide before he was shifted to a mental asylum. One of her sons, like her husband, was also shifted to a mental asylum where he ultimately lost his life. Despite her great losses, she remained resilient and she was known to “never give up”, even after she had gone deaf during the last stage of her life.

She published over thirty three personal compositions from 1831 to 1891. Some of her unpublished works number well over twenty. Most of her compositions came at a very early age, it was said that she lost confidence in composing at the age of thirty six and primarily devoted herself to playing popular pieces after that. Clara Schumann died on May 20, 1896 due to complications from a stroke in Frankfurt, Germany.