Robert Schumann’s name may be familiar among lovers of classical music. His most famous and popular work is Träumerei. But unfortunately not many people know the figure of his wife, Clara Schumann, who was born with the name Clara Josephine Wieck. I, too, before I studied music in Germany. During music college, the professor who taught me always advised me to read stories and history about the music I was playing. That’s where I started reading the story of Robert and Clara Schumann’s couple.
Starting from my admiration for their love story, where the father of Clara Schumann, Friedrich Wieck, insisted to separate the love affair between Robert and Clara, to the extent that the father had to hide a pen and paper from Clara, so that Clara could not reply to a letter from Robert Schumann. But the greatness of their love relationship continues even stronger. This makes me also more curious about the figure of Clara Wieck, because I myself have heard a lot about Robert Schumann.
My curiosity about these two lovebirds, which has been going on for more than four years, drove me to meet and watch concerts from the fifth generation of Robert and Clara Schumann’s descendants. Last September 26 was the second time I attended a concert from Heike-Angela Moser (piano) and his sister Anke-Christiane Beyer (Oboe), both of whom had direct blood from the Schumann family.
The concert was held on the Inselstraße street in Leipzig, in a building named Schumann-Haus, which began this year as the Clara-Schumann-Museum. The inauguration took place on September 13, 2019, to coincide with the celebration of Clara Schumann’s 200th birthday. This Schumann-Haus was the first house where Robert and Clara lived since the day after their wedding on September 12, 1840. The works played inside The concert was a musical piece written by Robert and Clara Schumann in this house, making the atmosphere of the concert very emotional that night, as well as being expressed directly by Frau Moser on the sidelines of the event.
During breaks in the middle of the concert, visitors are allowed to look at several rooms in the Clara-Schumann-Museum. Here visitors can get a lot of interesting information about Clara Schumann’s life through a variety of modern media. There is even a special room to read the writings of the Schumann couple while listening to their music. Interestingly, this museum is actually part of a private elementary school, named Clara Shumann Grundschule. So sometimes during a visit during the day, visitors can find some children who play in the museum without feeling disturbed. It is precisely the presence of these children gives its own color at the time of the visit and reminds me of the main inspiration of the Schumann couple, namely memories and naivety of childhood.
Clara Sacrificed Her Career for Her Husband
Back to the forbidden relationship between Robert and Clara before they were married. Apart from the age difference, it was quite far and at that time Clara was still around 16 years old, while Robert was already 24 years old. The father is very protective of Clara, because Clara is a child who is very talented in playing the piano. Friedrich Wieck himself was a musician and music educator who was quite well known in his day, therefore, starting at the age of 5 years Clara had received an intensive music education from her father. Uniquely, Clara was able to read and play musical notes on the piano well before she knew the letters of the alphabet.
Long story short, since the teen years Clara Wieck’s name was already very well known among the great European musicians of his day, such as Friedrich Chopin, Franz Liszt and Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. She also played in many prestigious music concerts to have a fairly tight schedule for her solo concert trip. After four years of marriage to Robert Schumann, they traveled to the Baltic countries to Russia. Clara’s income from a concert in Russia for about two months was able to cover the cost of renting their home in Inselstraße for up to 18 years!
Her soaring career made Robert Schumann even more discouraged and eventually banned Clara Schumann from working, arguing that Robert did not want to see Clara too tired. This is certainly Clara’s daily complaint. Because in addition to Clara having to always stay at home, she also witnessed Robert becoming depressed because he wanted to get the perfect job to support their family. However, Clara’s love for Robert never diminished. He continued to support Robert in any situation.
This is where I saw Clara Schumann’s figure as a tough woman, even though from childhood she had not felt the normal happiness of children her age, plus she had to see her husband’s condition worsening. After Robert died, their friend who was also a musician and named Johannes Brahms tried to approach Clara to establish a relationship with her, but Clara forgot Brahms, because she wanted to focus on her career as a pianist, music educator and composer, especially in caring for her five living children. Clara during her life had to lose three of her children who died, one of them due to tuberculosis.
After Clara died in 1896 in Frankfurt am Main, her body was taken and buried next to her husband Robert Schumann’s grave, which is located in the burial area of Alter Friedhof, Bonn. Exactly one week after my visit to Leipzig, I visited the graves of Robert and Clara Schumann as a form of my admiration for these two great musicians, especially towards the figure of Clara Schumann herself. The visit to the cemetery was also very memorable because of the rainy weather conditions and the slightly dark sky, making our visit even more dramatic. Having visited Robert Schumann’s hometowns in Zwickau and Clara Schumann in Leipzig, it was very satisfying to be able to visit their final resting place. And the more I get to know their personalities and stories, the more I can understand and interpret the music they create.