Why Clara Schumann would still be one of today's sassiest musicians

Why Clara Schumann, a Victorian pianist and composer, was way ahead of her time. Google paid tribute to Schumann on what would have been her 193rd birthday.

Google honored Clara Schumann with a doodle Thursday.

Were she alive today, Clara Schumann would be one of the hippest female artists around. A gifted concert pianist, Schumann’s biography busts open the corseted restrictions of the Victorian era with vibrant modern-day detail. Her innovative passion for music crumbled compositional boundaries with poetry, technical wit, and startling live performances, resulting in a career that spanned over six decades.

Not only did she defy the divisions separating work, performance, art as love, and family, she managed to do it all as a 19th century woman. Schumann's legacy was hot enough for Katherine Hepburn to play her in the 1947 flick, “Song of Love.”

Born Clara Josephine Wieck in 1819, Schumann was raised by a working, divorced mother and debuted as a concert pianist at age 9. She was deemed a child prodigy to nobody’s surprise. She even sued her own father in order to marry composer Robert Schumann and won in 1840, when she was 21 years old.

According to musicologist Nancy B. Reich, author of “Clara Schumann: The Artist and Woman,” Schumann not only made more money than her piano-playing husband but she also fought to fulfill the roles of performer and wife. Before they were married, Mr. Schumann tried to coax her away from her love of music, writing: “And if you were to be forgotten as an artist, would you not be beloved as a wife?... The wife stands even higher than the artist,” according to the New York Times. Evidently, Clara could not relinquish her love of music and continued to play.

Thanks in part to Ms. Reich’s biographical research, Clara Schumann’s musical legacy is far from forgotten.

Slide on a recording of Schumann and you’ll be listening to a symphony that splashes scores of real perspective on our continued musical evolution.

The Schumann marriage has long been romanticized by the public and mystique continues to shroud the two musical giants. However, only hypothesis can be surmised from their personal correspondence.

Factual evidence paints an altogether different picture, with four of their eight children dead before adulthood, one institutionalized, and Mr. Schumann’s mental deterioration and eventual death from syphilis.

Schumann’s extraordinary dedication to her craft continues to inspire today: “How had she succeeded in overcoming a lost childhood, an absent mother, a dominating father, a bitter battle with her father over her love for Robert Schumann?” asks Reich, “how had she achieved this position as a great concert artist who performed for over sixty years, probably longer than anyone else in 19th century Europe?”

Schumann’s primary testimony can be found in the remnants of her diaries and in the echoes of her music.

Despite being widowed at 36, Schumann continued to act as her own agent. She independently supported the surviving children, refused all loans, and somehow still found time to hang out with Johannes Brahms, Frédéric Chopin, and Felix Mendelssohn. No wonder she was known as the “Priestess.”

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Why Clara Schumann would still be one of today's sassiest musicians
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today