Every month KD’s selects a Composer of the Month and an Artist of the Month, each who have a birthday within that month. This month’s composer is Clara Schumann.
Born: September 13, 1819 – May 20, 1896
At a time when women rarely composed or performed music, Clara Schumann (nee Wieck), Clara did both. Clara was one of the most famous and most important pianists of her era, and enjoyed a performance career that spanned over 60 years. In the process, she was instrumental in changing the typical repertoire and format of piano recitals, as well as the listening taste of the public. Her talent as a composer was largely unrecognized until the latter part of her life; we may not have even heard her best music yet, because much of her music remains unreleased and in the hands of private collectors today.
Apart from her fame as a pianist and composer, which stands on its own, Clara is known for being married to the famous composer Robert Schumann. Clara played an important role in helping Robert become a famous composer, as she was the artist that premiered his most important works (Robert’s hand was partially paralyzed while he was an up-and-coming artist, and he couldn’t perform his own music). Clara and Robert “discovered” the famous composer and violinist Johannes Brahms and helped him become famous. Clara was the first to perform Brahms’ music publicly.
- Clara was a child prodigy who began her touring career at age 11. She was one of the first pianists to perform complete concerts from memory; she began this practices at age 13.
- Clara’s story has been made into several movies, most famously the 1947 film Song of Love, where she was portrayed by legendary actress Catherine Hepburn. Paul Henreid, most well-known for his role as “Victor” in Casablanca, played Robert Schumann.
- Clara appeared on the German 100-mark banknote until the time the mark was replaced by the Euro.
- Clara’s dislike of many famous composers and musicians of the time is well-documented, especially her disdain for Franz Liszt. Ironically, Liszt was one of the most important promoters of Robert Schumann’s music. Aside from Clara, Liszt is probably the person most responsible for Robert Schumann’s enduring fame today.
Piano Concerto in A Minor, Opus 7 (Composed when Clara was sixteen)
Deuxime Scherzo in C Minor, Opus 14
Piano Trio in G Minor, Opus 17
Drei Romanzen, Opus 22 (“Three Romances for Violin and Piano”)