September Composer of the Month - Clara Schumann

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Fun, Quick Facts About Clara Schumann

  1. She was a child prodigy!

  2. Clara was one of the first pianists to perform from memory, which was uncommon at the time. And she was only 13 years old!

  3. Clara was the first person to perform Brahms work publicly, even before him. She performed the Andante and Scherzo from the Sonata in F minor on October 23, 1854.

  4. She was the main breadwinner in her household, earning more money and more notoriety than Robert Schumann. Despite that, her husband often overshadowed her.

  5. Clara has been portrayed in movies, most notably Song of Love (1947) starring Kathrine Hepburn.

  6. She went on 38 tours outside her home country of Germany.

Suggested Listening

Das Veilchen

More on Clara

Clara Schumann gave her first concert at age seven and toured Europe at age 12 with her father, a reputable piano teacher. Also, she wrote her first composition at eleven years old and went on to produce many more throughout her life that were widely respected. 

As a performer, Clara’s tour of Europe in 1831 marked her development from a child prodigy to a young artist, and she received great acclaim during that tour, even the famed violinist, Niccolò Paganini offered to appear with her in Paris on this tour. Unfortunately, an outbreak of cholera in the city prevented this from happening. In 1837 to 1838 she appeared in a series of recitals in Vienna at the age of 18. Such famed musicians and artist of the city praised her performances exhaustibly with even Frederic Chopin praising her in a letter to Franz Liszt. These recitals even earned her the “Königliche und Kaiserliche Kammervirtuosin” ("Royal and Imperial Chamber Virtuoso”), Austria's highest musical honor.

Since childhood, Clara’s father inspired inspired her to write music. Clara started writing music at a very early age and found great solace in it.

“Composing gives me great pleasure,” she once wrote. “There is nothing that surpasses the joy of creation, if only because through it one wins hours of self-forgetfulness, when one lives in a world of sound.” 

When she was just 14 years old, she wrote her piano concerto, performing it two years later at age 16. She went on to create mostly other piano repertoire to be performed  at her recitals, of note are Op. 1, Quatre Polonaises pour le Pianoforte composed in 1831, and Op. 5 4 Pièces Caractéristiques in 1836. 

Throughout her life Clara had a robust influence on some of the 19th century’s most important composers. In the case of her husband, Robert Schumann, she spent the better part of her long and fruitful life performing and publishing the works of her husband, and she is often singlehandedly credited with popularizing Robert’s music and giving him the reverence and legacy his work enjoys today. Another very well known composer that she had great influence on was Johannes Brahms who took her advice on some of his compositions such as the “Adagio” from his first symphony.