Clara Schumann was one of the most influential and accomplished musicians of the 19th century. She was a pianist, composer, teacher, and wife of the famous composer Robert Schumann. Here are seven facts about her remarkable life:
- She was a child prodigy. Clara Schumann was born in Leipzig, Germany, in 1819. Her father, Friedrich Wieck, was a well-known piano teacher who recognized her talent and gave her a rigorous musical education. She made her public debut at the age of nine and soon became a sensation in Europe.
- She composed her own music. Clara Schumann wrote more than 60 works, including piano pieces, songs, chamber music, and a piano concerto. She was one of the first women to compose in the Romantic style and to express her personal feelings and experiences through music.
- She married Robert Schumann against her father’s wishes. Clara Schumann fell in love with Robert Schumann, one of her father’s students, when she was 16 and he was 25. They had a secret engagement for four years until they finally married in 1840, after a long legal battle with her father who opposed their union.
- She supported her husband’s career and mental health. Clara Schumann was Robert’s muse, critic, and partner. She performed his music, edited his manuscripts, and encouraged his creativity. She also cared for him during his bouts of depression and psychosis, which eventually led to his suicide attempt and confinement in an asylum.
- She raised eight children and had a successful career. Clara Schumann balanced her family life and her professional life with remarkable skill and dedication. She gave birth to eight children, four of whom died young. She also continued to perform, compose, and teach throughout her life, earning respect and admiration from audiences and critics.
- She had a close friendship with Johannes Brahms. Clara Schumann met Johannes Brahms in 1853, when he was 20 and she was 34. They became friends and musical collaborators, exchanging letters, manuscripts, and advice. Brahms supported Clara during Robert’s illness and death, and remained a loyal friend until her death.
- She was a pioneer of musical interpretation and pedagogy. Clara Schumann was one of the first pianists to play from memory, to perform cycles of works by a single composer, and to focus on the classical repertoire rather than the popular music of her time. She also taught many students at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt, passing on her musical insights and standards.