Friday, May 8, 2009

Clara Schumann

This Sunday's prelude will be "Prelude and fugue in g minor" by Clara Schumann. On Mothers' Day, I feel it's only appropriate to ensure representation by women composers, and Clara Schumann is one of the most remarkable women ever to compose for the keyboard.

She was married to the composer Robert Schumann, but Clara was the primary breadwinner and performer in the family. She was born in 1819, and was already touring Europe at age 11. She was a respected virtuoso performer all her life, with her final concert at the age of 72. Her husband's career, in fact, was greatly aided by her support, and other Romantic composers sought her advice and collaboration - including a deep friendship with Brahms.

In addition to her musical career, as a 19th century woman she was certainly expected to run the household and care for her children, all seven of them. She later took on the responsibility of raising several of her grandchildren as well.

Clara Schumann's music is not performed anywhere near as regularly as it should be. There are a few possible reasons. First, she stopped composing at a young age to focus on performing, teaching, and her family. Second, she composed in a style that was not in fashion at the time, sounding more like the classical music of the 18th century than the new Romantic style of her own era. Third, her distaste for much Romantic music led to hostility with Liszt, Wagner, and Bruckner. Fighting with the major composers of her own generation could not have helped her own reputation.

If you just listen casually to the prelude, you might not notice anything too different this Sunday - just another classical organ composition, a lyrical prelude and a fast-paced 3 voice fugue. But its worth knowing a bit about the life of Clara Schumann, an amazing role model and a great composer.

1 comment:

  1. I remember as a child being assigned a piano piece by Clara Schumann (probably simplified), but it was my first inkling that women in the "old times" composed as well as all those great old "masters."