The force of nature that music history knows as Clara Schumann, has a story so impressive for her time. A German musician and composer, she was also one of the first pianists to perform concerts from memory, setting a new bar that is still the standard today.
In the aftermath of a tempestuous marriage between her parents, Clara remained with her father, piano teacher Friedrich Wieck, who planned her life and career as if they were his own. Clara’s days were filled with lessons and practice, and her first solo concert tour was at age 11. She was the first to perform any of Johannes Brahms’ work publicly, and later in her career contributed greatly to the improvement of modern piano playing technique.
She met Robert Schumann, the man who would be her future husband and musical partner, when she was eight. He was so impressed with Clara’s playing that he gave up law school to study piano with Clara’s father. At 18, Clara accepted Robert’s proposal and together they had eight children, mentored Johannes Brahms and kept a fascinating joint musical diary until Robert’s death.
After a 61-year concert career, Clara gave her last public concert on March 12, 1891. She played Brahms's Variations on a Theme by Haydn - the piano duet, and her partner was the renowned James Kwast. She is still considered to be one of the most distinguished pianists of the Romantic era and by our standards, one of music’s finest contributors. Encore!
Image by Franz Hanfstaengl.