We’re highlighting the life and music of pioneering women in classical music every weekday during March for Women's History Month.
The story and influence of Clara Schumann, her relationships and her fame, can fill volumes. Born Clara Wieck, at age 9 she gave her debut recital on piano, at 16 she premiered her own Piano Concerto and soon was an internationally renowned concert pianist.
She first met Robert Schumann when she was just nine years old when he took piano lessons from her father. Just before she turned 21, they married in 1840. During that time they had already collaborated on compositions and for the rest of her life she would promote his music.
In The New York Times in 2019, Sacramento pianist Lara Downes said of the bond between the two:
“Their music is so profoundly connected that you really can’t separate the one from the other….From the very beginning, they were so deeply enmeshed, always listening and sharing, consulting and collaborating. It’s like all of the music they produced carries both sets of genes, and that’s so beautiful.”
In 1853 Robert and Clara met the unknown 20 year old Johannes Brahms who played his piano music for them and were impressed. Robert would soon be institutionalized for psychological problems and Brahms became Clara’s lifelong friend. In her more than 1000 concerts throughout Europe into her later years, she performed not only her own music but always championed the music of her husband, plus other friends and contemporaries such as Brahms, Chopin and Mendelssohn.
Clara Schumann’s life is detailed in countless books, movies and more. Here are just a few articles to scratch the surface: