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Clara Schumann (1819-1896)

Portrait by Franz von Lenbach, 1878 Clara Schumann is the world's best-known neglected women composer. Her life is well documented elsewhere, so I won't cover it here. Because she was so busy with her dazzling career as a virtuoso pianist, not to mention looking after Robert and their seven children, she devoted relatively little time to composing. This was also due to her lack of confidence in this domain. It's really sad reading in the Marriage Diaries the way she always puts herself down relative to Robert, and awaits his approval. He clearly thought highly of her as a composer, while stopping her practicing when he was composing (so that he could concentrate). I find her music deeply expressive, with a consistent thread of thoughtful nobility running through it. Robert and Clara's musical languages have a striking similarity. For me the point is not who got there first, but what it indicates in terms of their musical interaction.

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Konzert fur Klavier und Orchester, A moll, Op 7, 1832-3
1. Andante maestoso; A minor. 2. Romanze: Andante non troppo con grazia; A flat. 3. Allegro non troppo; A minor
2 fl, 2 ob, 2 cl, 2 bn; 2 hn, 2 tpt, 1 tbn, timps, strings. c 30 mins
On January 13 1833 the thirteen year old Clara Wieck wrote in her diary "I have begun to compose a concerto". She gave the first performance of it on 9 November 1835 in the Leipzig Gewandhaus with Felix Mendelssohn conducting. Robert Schumann, then studying the piano with her father, orchestrated it for her, a rare example of his early involvement with orchestral music. Although written as a showpiece for her concerts, the whole piece has a surprising unity and integrity for the genre, particularly as it was her first large scale work. The opening movement has a brilliantly written keyboard part, clearly the work of a virtuoso. A solo cello joins the piano in the poetic Romanze for a song-like duet, and leads into the lively polonaise Finale.
Published by Breitkopf & Hartel, Studienpartitur PB 5280


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Konzertsatz fur Klavier und Orchester, F moll, 1847 (completed Beenhouwer)
(no tempo marking)
2 fl, 2 ob, 2 cl, 2 bn; 2 hn, 2 tpt; timps; strings. 13 minutes
This piece is the beginning of a second piano concerto. It was dedicated as a birthday gift on 8 June 1847 to Robert, who "seemed to like some of it". It exists as a piano score sketch of the exposition. The Belgian pianist Jozeph de Beenhouwer recently completed the rest of the movement and orchestrated it. The music is both purposeful and melancholy. It is highly expressive, and well written for both piano and orchestra. It makes a substantial concert piece.
I gave the UK premiere in 1995 and then recorded it with my Orchestra, The Ambache, for the BBC Music Magazine (Vol IV No 9). For details see www.ambache.co.uk. A click here will take you to the appropriate page; return via your browser's Back Button.
Published by Brietkopf & Hartel Studienpartitur PB 5183


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Trio fur Klavier, Violine und Violoncello, G moll, Op 17, 1846
1. Allegro moderato; G minor. 2. Scherzo: Tempo di Menuetto; B flat. 3. Andante; G major. 4. Allegretto; G minor. 29 mins
Clara wrote in her diary in 1846 "There is nothing like the satisfaction of composing something oneself and hearing it afterwards." Let's hope she felt that about her Piano Trio of the same year, as some consider it her greatest achievement. The manuscript shows the work caused her some trouble during its inception, though in its final form, it is well-proportioned and sympathetically scored for the instruments employed. The lyrical first movement has a contrapuntal development. A charming Scherzo featuring the 'Scotch snap' is followed by a Romance-type slow movement, and the Finale brings the whole to a pleasing conclusion. It is an enjoyable and satisfying piece to play.
Published by Edition Kunzelmann GM 1373, Verlag Walter Wollenweber, D-8032 Munchen-Grafelfing, Postfach 1165


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Drei Romanzen fur Violine und Klavier, Op 22, 1853
1. Andante molto; D flat. 2. Allegretto; G minor. 3. Leidenschaftlich schnell; B flat. 10 mins
The three Romances were first published by Breitkopf in 1855. Clara wanted to offer the famous violinist Joseph Joachim a copy, fresh from the press as a Christmas present, but was thwarted by the publishers delay. Brahms hinted to his friend about the coming gift "you can certainly look foward with great pleasure to what is coming." Joachim and Clara performed the pieces several times in public, once to the "completely ecstatic" King George V of Hanover. Each Romance has its own mood: a beautifully dreamy Andante, with Clara's characteristicaly noble atmosphere; a gently Scherzo-like Allegretto; and a passionate last movement with a rich violin tune underscored by a rippling arpeggiated accompaniment. They are the best of Romantic miniatures, and very effective concert pieces.
Published by Breitkopf Nr 8383


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Sonate fur Klavier, G moll, 1841-2
1. Allegro; G minor. 2. Adagio; E flat. 3. Scherzo; G major. 4. Rondo; G minor
"Klara gave me two movements of a Sonata for Christmas - utterly delicate and much purer in writing than anything she has written before .." wrote Schumann to Clara's mother at Christmas 1840. She completed it soon in the new year. The Sonata is a singularly attractive work, harmonically captivating, and pianistically demanding. It would be an innovative addition to any recital.
Published by Breitkopf Nr 7445


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Selected Piano Music
A collection of piano works, including Quatre Pieces Caracteristiques, Op 5 (1835-6); Soirees Musicales, Op 6 (1835-6); Variations de Concert, Op 8 (1836-7); Scherzo, Op 10 (1839); Drei Romanzen, Op 11 (1839); and Drei Praeludien und Fugen, Op 16 (1845).
This is a good collection of her earlier piano works, with a nice mixture of character pieces with romantic miniatures.
The recording by Cristina Ortiz on Carlton Classics (30366 00292) includes the Op 10 Scherzo and the Op 11 Romances, as well as the Op 20 Variations on a theme of Robert Schumann, and the Op 21 Romances. The playing beautifully captures Clara's poetic thoughtfulness.
Published by Da Capo Press 227 West 17th St, New York, N.Y. 10011, USA


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Clara Schumann, the Artist and the Woman by Nancy B. Reich
This is a superb biography telling the whole remarkable story of Clara's life, including details of her glorious career, her strange (and later estranged) relationship with her father, the marriage to Robert, her friendship with Brahms and other musical contemporaries, plus a chapter about Clara as composer and editor. It is a eminently readable account of Clara's achievements which adds considerably to the understanding of this extraordinary woman.
Published by Victor Gollancz, 14 Henrietta St, London WC2E 8QJ. 1985.


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Clara Schumann, A Dedicated Spirit by Joan Chissell
This is a splendid account of the great love story of Clara and Robert, the difficult challenge of overcoming her father's fanatical opposition to her marriage to Robert, the conflict between domestic life and the call to the concert platform, Clara's strength in continuing life in all its facets after Robert's death, with information about how she played, taught and composed. As a full appraisal of all Clara's musical achievements, this is a very rounded biography. Incidentally, it was Joan Chissell who told me that Joseph de Beenhouwer had made the reconstruction of the Konzertsatz, so I'm indebted to her for putting me on to the performing version of the work.
Published by Hamish Hamilton, Garden House, 57-59 Long Acre, London WC2E 9JZ.1983.


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The Marriage Diaries of Robert & Clara Schumann Edited by Gerd Nauhaus
The Schumann marriage diaries provide a vivid portrait of the unique artistic and personal union between two renowned musicians. For the first four years of their marriage, Robert and Clara Schumann kept a joint diary, recording their entries, at least initially, on alternate weeks. It records their honeymoon period, the births of their children their busy social lives, travels throughout Europe, financial problems, separations and reunions. The book also evokes the artistic mileau of 19th century Germany, and gives their insights into fellow musicians and artists. It is a fascinating illustration of an extraordinary relationship, and Clara's self doubts as well as her great strength in supporting Robert are clearly shown.
Published by Robson Books, 5-6 Clipstone St, London W1P 7EB, by arrangement with Northeastern University Press, Boston

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