This year is the celebration of Clara Wieck Schumann’s 200th birthday. When I was a teenager I began reading about the lives of Clara and her husband Robert. I was always inspired when I read about their love for each other and the music they created and shared with each other and audiences all over the world. With the celebration of Clara's birthday, I am once again inspired as I read about the various celebrations taking place this year.
There is an amazing amount of information on the Schumann Network website. To access this site, go to www.schumann-portal.de. Click on “news” for continually updated information about events happening this year. Click on “200th anniversary of Clara Schumann's birthday in 2019” and it reads, “On the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Clara Schumann, not only the Schumann towns are making their plans but planning of all kinds is going on elsewhere, too, and new recordings are released with a view to the anniversary year 2019.”
In Leipzig they are already celebrating The CLARA19 Festival. The English translation website for this festival is https://english.leipzig.de/detailansicht-news/news/clara19-an-entire-year-dedicated-to-clara-schumanns-200th-birthday/. Leipzig is Clara's town of birth, the town of the beginning of her childhood prodigy career, the starting point of her international pianistic career, the place where she met Robert, the place where she got married and of the first years of marriage with the birth of the two oldest daughters. On this website you can learn about Clara's early childhood, see concert dates, see pictures and dates for tours of the Schumann house and see a picture of the beautiful Clara bouquet stamp.
In St. John's Smith Square in London, England they are beginning their Clara Schumann Festival with a weekend of music and discussion celebrating Clara, pianist, composer, wife, mother, friend and muse. The festival opens with a rare opportunity to hear Clara’s complete published songs, 29 settings in total. February 22nd to February 24th are the dates of this opening celebration. One can find all the information about this festival at sjss.org.uk.
For other listening opportunities, on Amazon you can purchase “Clara Schumann: Complete Songs” on the Naxos label. The songs are performed by soprano, Dorothea Craxton and pianist, Hedayet Djeddikar. At http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk, you can hear extracts from the CD, “The Songs of Clara Schumann.” The songs are performed by soprano, Susan Gritton, baritone, Stephen Loges, and pianist, Eugene Asti. There is also a wonderful two-page booklet that is included with this CD. In this booklet there is an explanation of the songs by Nancy Reich. She writes, “Except for Walzer, all Clara Schumann’s songs published during her lifetime were written after her marriage to Robert Schumann, and almost every song was intended as a Christmas or birthday present for her husband.”
I decided to do some exploring myself this past November. I had already read the book “Clara Schumann: The Artist and the Woman” by Nancy Reich many years ago and found it fascinating. Now, living in New Jersey, I took a trip to Hastings-on-Hudson to visit a bookstore in the town Mrs. Reich resided. I had read an article that Mrs. Reich had a book signing a while ago at this quaint bookstore. I learned when visiting this book store that Susanna Reich, Nancy’s daughter has written a book entitled, “Clara Schumann: Piano Virtuoso.” This book is aimed for children ages 7 to 10. After reading the reviews online, I can't wait to purchase it! From reading the reviews I think people of all ages will enjoy reading it.
Here are a few of the reviews:
- “A fascinating story of an incredible music talent. This book is perfectly aimed at middle school readers, or anyone wanting an overview of a fascinating life. Many illustrations bring life to this account, which is based in part on the life-long research and writing on Clara Schumann done by Nancy Reich, the artist’s mother. A full, colorful, biography of a fascinating artist." (August 1999 Booklist, ALA)
- “This is a heavily researched book. It draws from primary resources, Clara’s own diaries, her correspondence with her husband in their joint diaries and other musicians of the times.” (Horn Book).
- “Anyone interested in music history or women's history will find a compelling story here.” (Kirkus Reviews)
While exploring the Schumann Network website early this month I was saddened to learn about the passing of Nancy Reich just recently on January 31st. I learned from reading an article on this site that in 1996, Mrs. Reich received the Robert Schumann Prize from the city of Zwickau, Germany. Clara Schumann’s Youth diaries written by Nancy Reich will be published in March. There is also a most interesting article written in the New York Times on February 11th, “Nancy B. Reich Scholarly Champion of Clara Schumann dies at 94”. Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim writes in this article, “Throughout her career, Nancy Reich fought to redress the belittling portraits of Clara Schumann by earlier authors and to have her recognized as a significant composer, pianist and educator, as well as a central figure of German Romanticism. Decades after “Clara Schumann: The Artist and the Woman” was published, there have been many doctoral dissertations, anthologies and histories of music by women. Clara died in 1896 and left behind compositions, including songs, works for solo piano, chamber music and a piano concerto.”
When reflecting on why Clara is so easy to relate to, I can see many similarities to a woman in today's world. Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim writes in her article, “Mrs. Reich said in an interview with the NY Times in 1996, “It’s a modern story. Here was a girl growing up with a working mother who was taken care of by a maid, a child of divorced parents. She was left a widow at 36 but was very independent and refused any loans. When Robert was sick, she went back to the concert stage to pay for his medical bills. She was a working woman. She worked with her hands. In the NY Times article from 1996 Nancy Reich also states, “She lived a life that's very familiar today. She was her own manager and agent doing her own publicity and giving the premiers of Robert’s piano works. She was a close friend of Chopin, Mendelssohn and Brahms. Liszt respected her highly. I know what it takes to balance a life as a woman and as a professional person. I see her as a contemporary. If Clara Schumann were alive today, she would be a world-class star, traveling, touring and performing. Her success did not depend on beauty, youth or a brilliant personality. She was simply devoted to her art for her whole life. Her nickname was the “Priestess.”
While I won't be able to travel to Germany or England to experience the Clara Schumann Festivals (there is actually a concert celebrating Clara at Carnegie Hall as I write this blog), I am thankful to share this information about celebrating Clara and I welcome your comments.