She was born Clara Josephine Wieck on 13th September 1819 in Leipzig, the daughter of a music teacher. He taught her piano and composition, and she had written a piano concerto by the age of fifteen. She embarked on a career as a pianist, first appearing at a concert in Leipzig in 1828, followed by her debut as a solo performer in 1830 (when she also first met Robert Schumann, one of her father’s students).
Her career was extremely successful, and over the following seven years she played in Paris, toured Germany, and in 1837 performed in Vienna, where she was awarded the title of Royal and Imperial Virtuosa by the Emperor. Her manager and teacher remained her father.
She became secretly engaged to Robert Schumann 1837, her father being very much opposed to their marriage, which he saw as an obstacle to her career. The couple had to apply for special permission to marry without Clara’s father’s consent. Permission was granted in 1840, and they were able to marry.
Her father had been right; marriage to the troubled Schumann was particularly difficult, and though Clara Schumann managed to juggle the demands of her career with those of her husband and their children (eventually eight of them), it couldn’t have been easy for her.
The couple, after living for a time in Leipzig, moved first to Dresden and then to Düsseldorf. In 1854 Robert Schumann’s mental problems came to a head with a suicide attempt, and he was admitted to a private asylum. Clara Schumann continued her concert career (the only means of support for her young but large family, and of paying her husband’s hospital bills). Robert Schumann died in 1856; Clara hadn’t visited him in the asylum, on the advice of the doctors, but returning from a concert tour of England she went to see himtwo days before his death.
Over the following years Clara Schumann continued to perform, as well as to champion her husband’s work. She settled in Franfurt in 1878, where she taught at the Hoch Conservatory. She gave her last concert in Frankfurt in 1891; five years later she suffered a stroke, and died on 20th May 1896.
Although her life allowed little time for composition, Clara Schumann was able to produce a fair corpus of work. Aside from her father’s tuition, she had received lessons in counterpoint from Siegfried Dehn in Berlin, and further teaching in theory and composition from various people in the course of her travels with her father. She lost confidence in her abilities, however, and composed nothing after the age of thirty-six.
Edited by [deleted user] on 7 Dec 2010, 03:05
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