Biography: Clara Schumann


Clara Wieck

Clara Schumann, nee Wieck (1819-1986), was a German musician and composer, and considered one of the most distinguished pianists of the Romantic era.

Her father, Friederich Wieck, was a respected piano teacher, and saw to it that Clara had a high quality musical education. She made her formal debut at the age of 11, and under her father’s management toured Germany, Austria and France.

Clara was one of the few pianists at the time to perform music from memory, and besides promoting her own compositions she also introduced the works of other major composers including her future husband Robert Schumann.

Clara met Robert while he was a pupil of her father. By 1836 the coupschumannfamilyle were in love,  but Robert was still an unknown composer and Friederick Wieck was opposed to the marriage. After years of enforced separation and a series of court battles Clara and Robert wed on September 12, 1840.

During their marriage Clara bore eight children. Even with such a large family she continued to perform, compose and teach piano while at the same time supporting her husband’s career. The Schumanns had a successful partnership; Clara arranged many of his instrumental works for piano and performed them on her concert tours, and he gave tribute to her compositional efforts by including quotations from her works in his. The couple also acted as mentors for Johannes Brahms, who lived with the family to help support Clara and the children as Robert’s health declined.

Clara Schumann at pianoAfter Robert’s death in 1856 Clara resumed her concert tours and devoted much of her time to promoting Schumann’s work. She performed publicly for the last time in 1891, but continued to teach piano until she passed away in 1896.

References/Recommended Reading:

Reich, Nancy B. “Schumann, Clara.” Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 9 Nov, 2013.

Reich, Nancy B. Clara Schumann: the Artist and the Woman. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001. Print.

Recommended Listening:

Piano Music (Find it in the collection: catalogue link)

Romanzen (Find it in the collection: catalogue link)

Piano Concerto in A Minor (Find it in the collection: catalogue link)

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