Weird Traits in a Musical Language of Her Own

Franz von Lenbach painted Clara Wieck.

By now the situation has become clear, and the question that I raised in one of my earliest posts about Clara Wieck: She rarely felt an inner voice compelling her to compose. Someone else had to give the impulse, her father Friedrich, her husband Robert. Once she had taken up the challenge, she usually executed the task con brio. Her personal ambition was to be a pianist, to perform, and much less to make history as a composer. Which did not prevent her to write, some lovely, entertaining Romantic piano pieces, such as her op. 15: Vier flüchtige Stücke (Four Fugitive Pieces). How did I come to that conclusion? I read an excellent biography exploring Clara’s character in depth.

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Finding Comfort in Clara’s Evening Music

Solitude. © Charles Thibo

It’s evening, I am lonely and I could do with a little company, a little entertainment – how often have I felt this when I was young and how much I hated such evenings. I hated the world and myself, self-pity was on the agenda. I often found comfort in a book or a piece of music. Unfortunately I had not yet discovered the composer Clara Wieck and even less her piano cycle “Soirées musicales”, op. 6.

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Un air de Chopin signed Clara Wieck

Rêverie. © Charles Thibo

Ah, this woman! If only she had written more piano concerts, this world would be a better one. She only wrote one and so we will have to contend with the situation as it is and make the best of it by enjoying Clara Wieck’s Piano Concerto in A minor. A truly Romantic concerto, three movements – fast, slow, fast – and beautiful melodies to enjoy, a hint of nostalgia, quite a bit of energy and self-consciousness, gentleness and rêverie… beautiful! The music critic James Reel detects parallels to Frédéric Chopin, and indeed, the lightness, the brilliance, the sensitivity – un air de Chopin.

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Two Women, Two Soul Mates and a Trio

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Splendour. © Charles Thibo

May 14, 1847: Fanny Mendelssohn dies in Berlin. Clara Wieck, Robert Schumann’s wife is aghast. “The case of [Felix] Mendelssohn’s sister is very sad. I just had had the chance to get to know her in Berlin and think highly of her. We saw each other every day, had planned to go sight-seeing in Berlin when we would meet next and to perform together. She most likely was the best female musician of her time […] I had dedicated my trio, that expect to be printed very soon, to her and now she is dead!”

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