Happy Birthday, Mrs. Schumann

by Anne Bennett on September 13, 2012

Clara Schumann, 1819-1896
Is it any wonder why she looks so weary?

If you took piano lessons as a child, chances are you learned to play several short pieces written by German composer Robert Schumann, particularly songs from Kinderszenen, (Scenes from Childhood).

Even if you didn’t take piano, you’d recognize the tunes; they are universally beloved the world over.

Although Robert’s name has remained famous in history, during their lifetimes it was his wife Clara who was more famous, more celebrated as a brilliant artist.

Born on September 13, 1819, Clara was a child piano prodigy who was taught by her musician father (one hour of daily lessons followed by two hours of practice). She was performing in Europe’s finest salons by age 9.

After they were married, Robert and Clara had eight children together, and while Robert was gaining a reputation as a composer, Clara acted as the family’s bread-winner by playing piano recitals throughout Europe. This was due mainly to┬áRobert ‘s mental fragility (he was eventually confined to an insane asylum for the last two years of his life).

I’d like to raise a toast to Clara today, on what would have been her 193rd birthday.

Here is the story of another woman in history who was a genius, who was celebrated internationally for her virtuosity as a pianist, who saw four of her children die during her lifetime, whose husband succumbed to mental illness, who rubbed shoulders with the likes of Mendelssohn, Chopin, Brahms and Lizst, and yet who is remembered almost exclusively as the wife of composer Robert Schumann.

It’s your day to shine, Clara.





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