Today’s Google Doodle honors the 193rd birthday of Clara Schumann, a gifted virtuoso, composer, wife and mother, who overcame many adversities. Schumann is the picture of strength, passion, independence, and enduring love.
Clara was born in Germany on September 13, 1819. Her father, Friedrich Wieck, was a theologian, but he made a living as a musician by trade. Her father and mother divorced when she was young and she was put into the custody of her father. He recognized her musical talents and built upon that throughout her childhood. By the time she was 11, she had made her first formal debut as a performer. Her father was extremely strict with her and had her tour all over Germany doing performances.
She had the rare ability to perform most piano works from memory. Her influences were Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, and most notably Robert Schumann. Schumann, who was 9 years older than Clara, left law school and took up residence with the Wieck family so he could study music with her father. A romance bloomed between she and Schumann which her father wanted no part of. In fact, he dropped Schumann as a student and sent Clara away to tour so she couldn’t see him. However, her love was strong and through messengers, she and Schumann never lost touch with each other. Without her father’s blessing, and essentially having to get permission to marry through a court order, Clara and Robert were wed one day before her 21st birthday.
Schumann was a woman of notable character and strength. Shortly into their marriage, Robert had a mental breakdown and was plagued with mental illness the rest of his life. Because of these shortcomings, Clara became the main source of income and financial stability. She achieved this through teaching and performing. Robert was very supportive of her compositions, though it is only lately that her work has been recognized. In fact, Robert lamented that his mental illness, and the fact that they had 8 children, must have cut short many brilliant compositions that lived in her. Clara helped arrange many of Robert’s compositions and he was good to acknowledge such. Unfortunately, Robert’s mental illness landed him in an asylum for a couple of years. During this time Clara was not allowed to make contact with him and didn’t get to do so until shortly before his death. She was a widow at age 37.
There are many other stories that showed her strength and resolve, such as the time she defied a group of armed men, during the uprising in Dresden, to go into the city and rescue her children. She also raised many of her grandchildren because one of her daughters died and one of her sons was committed like his father. He too died in the asylum. Despite the difficulties that plagued her, Clara continued to perform and later teach until she passed away in 1896.
For more information about this incredible woman’s life, and to see a list of her compositions, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clara_Schumann.