Robert and Clara Schumann
Romance in the Romantic Period
Robert Schumann is considered a first rate composer. In addition to piano music he wrote music for; chamber ensemble, symphony orchestra, choral music, many songs for piano and voice and even an opera. Schumann’s “Album for the Young” contains some of the most beautifully written music for young pianists! All of my early intermediate level students learn selections from this great work. Schumann’s inspiration for the for the pieces in his “Album for the Young” came from watching his own 8 children play and grow. Since this work is such a treasure for both piano students and piano teachers I thought it would be interesting to learn about Robert Schumann and his very musical wife Clara Wieck Schumann.
Robert Schumann was born June 8, 1810 in Zwickau Saxony (Now Germany). Schumann began learning the piano at the age of 6. His mother wanted him to become a lawyer and although he attended Law School he continued to develop as a musician. In 1830 he left law school to study with a well known piano teacher named Friedrich Wieck. As a student of Wieck Schumann moved into a room in his home.
As it turns out Professor Wieck had an 11 year old daughter named Clara. She was a gifted pianist, performer and composer.
Robert Schumann also a gifted pianist wanted to devise a way to strengthen his hands and improve his pianistic virtuosity. He developed a device intended to prop up his fingers while he played. Unfortunately, instead of strengthening his hands he permanently injured two fingers of his right hand ending his chances of a career as a concert pianist. He decided to turn all of his attention to musical composition.
During this time Robert Schumann fell in love with one of Professor Wieck’s students named Ernestine Von Fricken. The two became engaged but Schumann broke it off when he realized it was Clara that he was really loved. Clara’s father was not happy about this. In fact he forbade his daughter to marry Robert Schumann and did everything he could to break them up. They went before a judge filing suits for three years before they were finally allowed to marry, one day before Clara’s 21st birthday.
Much of Robert Schumann’s music was inspired by his love for Clara and for their children. His music contained secret love messages to Clara. They kept a marriage diary, in it they shared their thoughts and feelings.
The Schumann’s marriage certainly seemed to be a loving one. Though it was not always easy. Robert Schumann’s suffered from some form of mental illness. Diagnosed at the time as “Psychotic Melancholia” today, the illness would probably be known as Bipolar Disorder or perhaps Schizophrenia.
Besides raising their eight children and caring for her husband Clara Schumann supported the family by concertizing. She played her husbands’ music and was one of the first pianists to play from memory.
Sadly, Robert Schumann died at the age of 56 after spending two years in an asylum. Clara continued to promote his music until her death at the age of 76. She was the instrumental in making Robert Schumann’s music well known.
Here is a beautiful piece from ” Album for the Young” played by Dr. Corey Hall