Born in Leipzig on September 13th, 1819, Clara
Josephine Wieck began studying music from an early age. Her father, Friedrich
Wieck, provided her with a broad and thorough musical education, which included
composition. Though she began composing during childhood, her career was
concentrated upon being a concert pianist. During the early years of her
career, her concert programs consisted largely of show pieces by Kalkbrenner,
Henselt, Thalberg and Czerny and, as was customary, her own compositions.
Later, however, as she became more established as a performer, she began to
include works by the more "difficult" composers of the past—Bach, Mozart and
Beethoven—as well those at the forefront of the burgeoning Romantic movement,
such as Mendelssohn, Chopin and, of course, Robert Schumann.
Clara had met Robert Schumann in March 1828 when both were
asked to perform at the home of Dr. Ernst Carus. Schumann so admired Clara's
playing that he abandoned his studies of the law and began taking piano lessons
with Clara's father. In 1837, Schumann approached Friedrich for his permission
to marry Clara, but he refused. Friedrich desperately tried to prevent her from
marrying Schumann. Eventually, the couple took him to court and they were
finally wed on September 12th, 1840. After the marriage, she
continued to perform and compose. However, by 1855 she had ceased composing
Following Schumann's mental illness and subsequent death in
1856, Clara devoted herself to the promotion and interpretation of his music.
In addition, she also frequently gave first performances of works by Johannes
Brahms, whom she and Robert had met in 1853. In 1878, she was appointed teacher
of the piano at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt am Main, which she held
until 1892. Her efforts at the conservatory greatly influenced modern piano
On March 12th, 1891, Clara Schumann gave her last
public concert, performing the piano duet version of Brahms's Variations on a Theme of Haydn. Almost
exactly five years later, on March 26th, 1896, she suffered a stroke
and passed away two months later on May 20th
at the age of 76.
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