Clara Wieck Schumann was a distinguished German musician and composer of the Romantic era. She lived during a time when female musicians of her caliber were extremely rare to find and despite being one of the few women in a male-dominated field, she enjoyed a productive career that spanned six decades. An accomplished pianist, she changed the format and repertoire of the piano over the course of her long career and left behind an important body of compositions.
Born to a highly ambitious musically inclined father, she was trained for success from a young age. As a little girl she received training in piano, violin, singing, theory, harmony, composition, and counterpoint, and started performing at the age of eight under her father’s watchful eyes. At the age of 13, she was one of the first to perform from memory, which is now standard practice for all pianists.
She fell in love with one of her father’s students, Robert Schumann, and married him despite her father’s disapproval. Clara Wieck and Robert Schumann met at a concert Clara was playing a concert for a mental institute more specifically Colditz Castle. She was just 9 years old at the time and only a decade later, they married.
But Clara Schumann lived up to more than one role: She was her own manager, composer, wife and muse to Robert Schumann and gave birth to eight children, of which seven reached adulthood. She was also friend, advisor and appreciated colleague of many famous musicians as for instance to Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient, Pauline Viadrot-Garcia, Johannes Brahms and Joseph Joachim, but she also was piano educationist and editor of the works of her deceased husband.
In March 1838, she was named a ‘Königliche und Kaiserliche Kammervirtuosin’ ("Royal and Imperial Chamber Virtuoso"), Austria's highest musical honor.
Clara Wieck Schumann had a long and productive career but her personal life was plagued with numerous tragedies. Even though she gave birth to eight children, four of them predeceased her. In addition to raising her own large family, she was also saddled with the responsibility of raising some of her grandchildren.
Her famous quote about her husband’s music: “How wonderful is such an incessantly creative powerful spirit; how I glory in the fortune that heaven has granted me sufficient intellect and feeling to comprehend this heart and soul so completely…”