Women’s History Month – Clara Schumann

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Clara Josephine Wieck was born in Leipzig on 13 September 1819. Her father taught her music theory and performance in a rigorous schedule at an early age. She performed publicly as a young girl and met another young musician, Robert Schumann, when she performed at a home at the age of eight. Schumann moved into the Wieck house as a student of Clara’s father. Ten years later, Clara and Schumann married.

Clara was giving solo piano recitals in a European tour when she was eleven. She continued to perform to rave reviews after her marriage. She was praised by Frederick Chopin and Franz Liszt. She and Robert formed a close friendship to the young Johannes Brahms and she championed his music.

Although she composed many mature compositions, Clara Schumann’s legacy lies mostly in her career as a pianist. She was one of the first performers to perform works from memory in public, a practice that has been used ever since. Edvard Grieg called Clara “one of the most soulful and famous pianists of the day”. She performed her piano concerto at the age of sixteen in Leipzig with Felix Mendelssohn conducting.

Clara Schumann was responsible for raising not only her children but some of her grandchildren as well. She showed great courage when, at the age of 29, she walked through the streets of Dresden during the May Uprising to rescue her children. Although confronted by a group of armed men, she retrieved her children and escorted them back home to safety.

Enjoy this romanticized reenactment of Clara Schumann from the film “Song of Love” in which Clara (Katharine Hepburn) schools Franz Liszt on the art of simplicity.

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