The Kennedy Center

Clara Schumann



Biography

Clara Schumann was born Clara Wieck in Leipzig, Germany and began studying piano with her father, who raised her after her parents divorced when she was five. At 12, she and her father began touring Europe, and she achieved significant success. By 1837, she was recognized as one of the leading virtuosos in Europe, and her career as a composer was progressing as well. That year, she became engaged to German composer Robert Schumann, who had begun studying piano with Clara’s father when Clara was 11.

During her marriage, Clara did not have a great deal of time to compose, and Robert Schumann’s attitude toward Clara’s musical career was ambivalent, as the conventions of the time dictated that a woman’s role was to stay home and raise the family’s children. Clara was only able to tour as a pianist when the family’s finances required it.  Clara continued to compose but finally gave it up in 1853. Her total output was only 23 compositions, but they were favorably received when they were published. The Piano Trio in G minor of 1846, written with four small children in the house, is often considered her greatest work.

When Robert Schumann later developed signs of mental illness and entered an asylum, Clara resumed touring to support the family. After his death, Clara renewed her performing career and achieved international acclaim for the depth of her interpretations and the variety of her concert programs. She played a large part in establishing the permanent status of both Robert Schumann and family friend Johannes Brahms in the piano repertory.

In her later years, Clara Schumann taught piano at a German conservatory and continued performing until five years before her death.  Although primarily known as the wife of  Robert Schumann, Clara Schumann was a composer and accomplished pianist in her own right

Clara Schumann

Compositions

  • Three Romances for Piano and Violin