Musician of the Month: Clara Schumann

Clara Schumann is recognized as one of the most impressive pianists of the Romantic Era. Her career as a pianist lasted six decades, and throughout that time she was an inspiration to both the composers and performers of piano music. Aside from her talent playing piano, she was also well known as one of the first female composers and for her marriage to Robert Schumann. One of her most well-known works is her 1841 piano concerto. 

Clara was born in Germany on September 13, 1819 and her maiden name was Clara Wieck. From the time Clara was a toddler her father instructed her in strict and rigorous music lessons. At age eight she was already viewed by society as a child prodigy, and by age eleven she was touring Paris and other European cities as a performer. Her playing touched the hearts of many, for example after Clara’s performance of Appassionata during a recital in Vienna the famous Austrian poet Franz Grillparzer wrote a poem entitled “Clara Wieck and Beethoven.

Unlike many arranged marriages of the time, the relationship of Robert and Clara Schumann mirrors a modern romance movie.  Robert had first seen Clara perform when she was eight and he was seventeen.  He was completely captivated by her playing— so much so that he ended his law studies and asked to live in the Wieck house and study music under her father for the next year. Clara’s father was against the relationship, and when Robert proposed to Clara when she turned 18 there was such resistance from her father that legal battles were fought and they would not be wed until Clara’s 21st birthday.

Clara was an inspirational, talented, and independent woman.  She managed to raise children, continue her piano career, act as a business partner to her husband, and compose some of the world’s greatest music.  She and Robert were a major influence on Brahms. In fact, Clara actually premiered the first Brahms piece ever performed in concert.  Today Clara’s legacy is honored most frequency through performances of her compositions — check out her Three Romances for Violin and Piano.

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