Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Clara Schumann

Clara Schumann: The Artist and the Woman

Nancy B. Reich
Copyright Date: 2001
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 416
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Clara Schumann
    Book Description:

    This absorbing and award-winning biography tells the story of the tragedies and triumphs of Clara Wieck Schumann (1819-1896), a musician of remarkable achievements. At once artist, composer, editor, teacher, wife, and mother of eight children, she was an important force in the musical world of her time. To show how Schumann surmounted the obstacles facing female artists in the nineteenth century, Nancy B. Reich has drawn on previously unexplored primary sources: unpublished diaries, letters, and family papers, as well as concert programs. Going beyond the familiar legends of the Schumann literature, she applies the tools of musicological scholarship and the insights of psychology to provide a new, full-scale portrait.

    The book is divided into two parts. In Part One, Reich follows Clara Schumann's life from her early years as a child prodigy through her marriage to Robert Schumann and into the forty years after his death, when she established and maintained an extraordinary European career while supporting and supervising a household and seven children. Part Two covers four major themes in Schumann's life: her relationship with Johannes Brahms and other friends and contemporaries; her creative work; her life on the concert stage; and her success as a teacher.

    Throughout, excerpts from diaries and letters in Reich's own translations clear up misconceptions about her life and achievements and her partnership with Robert Schumann. Highlighting aspects of Clara Schumann's personality and character that have been neglected by earlier biographers, this candid and eminently readable account adds appreciably to our understanding of a fascinating artist and woman.

    For this revised edition, Reich has added several photographs and updated the text to include recent discoveries. She has also prepared a Catalogue of Works that includes all of Clara Schumann's known published and unpublished compositions and works she edited, as well as descriptions of the autographs, the first editions, the modern editions, and recent literature on each piece. The Catalogue also notes Schumann's performances of her own music and provides pertinent quotations from letters, diaries, and contemporary reviews.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6830-8
    Subjects: History, Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Preface to the Revised Edition
    (pp. ix-xi)
    Nancy B. Reich
  5. Preface to the First Edition
    (pp. xii-xvi)
    Nancy B. Reich
  6. Acknowledgments to the Revised Edition
    (pp. xvii-xvii)
    N. B. R.
  7. Acknowledgments to the First Edition
    (pp. xviii-xx)
    N. B. R.
  8. Chronology
    (pp. xxi-xxiii)
  9. Abbreviations and Sources
    (pp. xxiv-xxviii)
  10. Part I. The Life of Clara Schumann

    • CHAPTER 1 Prelude: The Wiecks of Leipzig
      (pp. 3-17)

      On January 9, 1838, a poem, “Clara Wieck und Beethoven,” appeared in the Wiener Zeitschrift für Kunst.¹ Written by Franz Grillparzer, Austria’s leading dramatic poet, the verse linked the name of the great composer with that of a young woman who had just given her third Viennese recital at the age of eighteen. Grillparzer’s response to her performance of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata op. 57, the “Appassionata,” reflected the wild enthusiasm the young pianist aroused in Vienna.

      Clara Wieck had arrived in the Austrian capital from her native Leipzig with her father, Friedrich, in December 1837. From her first concert on...

    • CHAPTER 2 Clara’s Career Begins
      (pp. 18-36)

      The girlhood diaries of Clara Wieck are an unparalleled source of information about her education, career, and the musicians and musical life she knew. Most significant, however, is what they reveal about Friedrich Wieck and the nature of the relationship between father and daughter. Until she was eighteen years old, almost every diary entry was written or supervised by her father. The title page reads: “My diary, begun by my father, the seventh of June 1827, and continued by Clara Josephine Wieck.”* Thus Clara was seven years old when the diary, which was to be the “dearest companion” of her...

    • CHAPTER 3 Robert Schumann and the Wiecks
      (pp. 37-54)

      When Clara and her father returned from Paris in 1832, they were eagerly awaited by Clementine, Alwin, Gustav, the four-month-old baby, Marie, whom the father had never seen, and the former boarder, Robert Schumann. The young composer noted in his diary that Alwin and Gustav had run over to his rooms the instant Clara and Wieck returned.¹ In the days following, Clara’s name appears in his diary with increasing frequency.

      Born in Zwickau, a town of about 4,000 people in Saxony, some forty miles south of Leipzig, Robert was the youngest (and a late) child of a devoted family. The...

    • CHAPTER 4 The Break with Wieck
      (pp. 55-79)

      After the travails of the trips to Paris, Dresden, and Berlin, the success in Vienna was sweet indeed. Little was heard from Wieck about plots and cabals, and though he issued occasional curses at conditions and foes in the Austrian capital, his letters reflected less anger and hostility than did those from Berlin. Viennese charm had softened the old man—but not to the point of changing his mind about Robert. He had given permission for them to correspond while Clara was on tour, but she was so fearful that her father would read her correspondence that she secretly scribbled...

    • CHAPTER 5 The Marriage
      (pp. 80-99)

      The marriage between Robert and Clara Schumann was unique in musical history. They were drawn together and remained together not only because of common musical experience, mutual emotional dependency, and physical attraction, but because their musical and creative needs complemented each other.

      The early months of their marriage were the most joyful Clara had ever experienced. Her husband was both mother and father to the woman who had lost both: his tender, Eusebius side (the one she preferred) provided maternal warmth; his brilliant mind, creative genius, and sharp critical talent stimulated and inspired the young artist. And finally, her sexual...

    • CHAPTER 6 The Dresden Years
      (pp. 100-110)

      Why Dresden? The Schumanns must have asked themselves this question often; certainly their friends puzzled over the move from Leipzig, the musical capital, to the baroque court city of Dresden. The years in the Saxon capital began in sickness and anxiety and continued through many illnesses and disappointments. During those years Schumann composed many of his great works, but the feverishly exalted creative periods were interspersed with serious depressions that forced his wife to take on increasing responsibilities. Clara’s health and stamina carried her forward as she continued her own concert career, aided her husband artistically, emotionally, and financially, bore...

    • CHAPTER 7 Düsseldorf and the Death of Robert Schumann
      (pp. 111-130)

      Clara Schumann’s conduct during the last years of her marriage raises many questions. Did she become overly directive during the years in Düsseldorf? Did she neglect her husband during his hospitalization? Why did she wait more than two years before visiting him in the institution where he died? An examination of newly available material permits us to view these difficult years in perspective and goes far toward understanding her actions.*

      The position offered Robert in Düsseldorf—music director of the Municipal Orchestra and Chorus, with responsibility for ten concerts and four church music services yearly—was accepted with many reservations....

    • CHAPTER 8 The Later Years
      (pp. 131-166)

      In her place of prominence, the young widow seemed to provoke either great loyalty or downright hostility. Despite her modesty, simplicity, and unpretentiousness, she seemed to her children, friends, and audiences to be larger than life. On stage and off, she had a sense of self that never deserted her: as mother, teacher, and pianist she rarely lost her dignity and self-possession.

      Throughout her lifetime she was described as a “priestess,” and the appellation seems appropriate not only because of her consecration to her art but because of her characteristic solemnity. Sober and earnest, she was often teased for her...

  11. Part II. Themes from the Life of Clara Schumann

    • CHAPTER 9 Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms
      (pp. 169-189)

      The friendship between Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms has always been a subject of spirited speculation and even malicious gossip.¹ The frequent published accounts that emphasize the “passionate” friendship that developed between the thirty-four-year-old pianist and the twenty-year-old composer neglect the deeper personal and artistic bonds between them. Neither Clara Schumann nor Brahms ever denied the deep love they felt for each other, but a sexual liaison during the time Schumann was institutionalized would have been entirely out of character for the grieving, practical, conscientious woman. And in later years, all evidence points to a platonic relationship. The significance of...

    • CHAPTER 10 Other Friends and Contemporaries
      (pp. 190-210)

      Clara Schumann found it essential to have people around her and cultivated friends and acquaintances assiduously. Her friendships sustained her musically and emotionally; her children could not fulfill this need. She explained to sixteen-year-old Felix when he questioned the necessity for her enormous correspondence, a daily task that he felt deprived him of her presence and care:*

      You have to consider how many people I get to know on my tours and how fond I become of them, how they always shower me with love and kindness, and all I can give them in return is constancy. . . ....

    • CHAPTER 11 Clara Schumann as Composer and Editor
      (pp. 211-248)

      Clara Wieck Schumann’s achievements as a composer and editor are not so well known as her accomplishments on the concert stage. Her compositions, published, reviewed, reprinted, and performed throughout the nineteenth century, were esteemed by Robert Schumann, Mendelssohn, Chopin, and Brahms, among others. For some time after her death, however, her compositions were all but forgotten; on the occasions when they were performed, they were generally considered interesting only in relation to those of her husband. The surge of interest in her works in the late twentieth century, fueled by the attention to women’s history, has ensured that all but...

    • CHAPTER 12 The Concert Artist
      (pp. 249-278)

      Clara Schumann’s life as a concert artist parallels the history of concert life in the nineteenth century. A study of her long and illustrious career, beginning with her first performance at the Leipzig Gewandhaus in 1828 and closing with her last public performance in Frankfurt in 1891, gives us an intimate knowledge of programming traditions, repertoire, concert arrangements, customs in various cities, the child prodigy phenomenon, women in concert life, and changes in musical standards and taste. In each of these spheres Clara Schumann had a decisive influence.

      Her lengthy career on the concert stage—over sixty years—may be...

    • CHAPTER 13 Clara Schumann as Student and Teacher
      (pp. 279-288)

      As pianist and as teacher, Clara Schumann followed the precepts taught her by Friedrich Wieck. She retained the greatest respect and admiration for his guidance and instruction despite his irrational intrusions into her personal life. Friedrich Wieck had many successful students and took great pride in them, but his daughter Clara was by far the most outstanding pianist he ever produced. In typical Wieck fashion, he dismissed any influence other musicians might have had on his daughter. This proscription included Robert Schumann, of course.

      How did Wieck teach? Frederick Niecks, who spoke with many students of Wieck, including Clara Schumann...

  12. Catalogue of Works
    (pp. 289-337)

    In this catalogue of works the reader will find the genesis and history of each of Clara Schumann’s known compositions, arrangements, and editions. Information about lost or missing works is also provided. Particular attention to contemporary reviews has been given and excerpts from reviews are translated to enable the reader to gauge the reception of her works. Selections from the composer’s diary and correspondence document her ideas, sympathies, responses, sensibilities, and susceptibilities as she progresses from the Four Polonaises, published when she was a child of eleven, to the arrangements for piano of Robert Schumann’s opp. 56 and 58, published...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 338-360)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 361-374)
  15. Index
    (pp. 375-386)