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  • Writer's pictureSimon Rushby

Three Romances for Violin and Piano by Clara Schumann

#listeneveryday 10 Feb 2021

Clara Wieck was a German pianist and composer, born in 1819 in Leipzig. She lived with her father and studied music for hours every day under his careful guidance. She became a highly regarded concert pianist and toured widely, performing with other 19th century virtuosi such as Paganini and giving the first performances of many pieces by other leading composers of the day.

One such composer became her husband. Robert Schumann was nine years older than Clara, and had met her while she was still a child living at her father's house. He proposed - and she accepted - when she was just 18, but Clara's father disapproved of the marriage and forbade it. The couple went to court and secured a ruling that allowed them to marry in 1840, when Clara was 21.

Robert Schumann enjoyed the best and most productive years of his composing career during his marriage to Clara, but his mental health declined and he attempted suicide in 1854. He was admitted to a sanatorium and died there two years later. Clara Schumann continued to tour, championing the work of her husband and of Brahms, who became her close friend.

That Clara was also a composer was a fact sadly ignored for over a hundred years. She herself said "A woman must not desire to compose. There has never yet been one able to do it". Her husband saw her talent, writing "To have children, and a husband who is always living in the realm of imagination, does not go together with composing. She cannot work at it regularly and I am often disturbed to think how many profound ideas are lost because she cannot work them out".

Thankfully Clara Schumann's sublime music has enjoyed a surge in popularity in the last 50 years or so. She performed extensively with the violinist Joseph Joachim, and wrote the Three Romances, Op.22 for the two of them to play in 1853. They are truly wonderful, and reveal a depth of creative talent and skill that rivals any composer of the Romantic period. They are performed here by Clara-Jumi Kang, a German violinist of Korean descent, accompanied by pianist Yeol Eum Son.

More to listen to

You might like to compare the above with Robert Schumann's Three Romances, Op.94, also performed here by Clara-Jumi Kang. They were written for the oboe, but Clara Schumann undoubtedly performed them with Joachim after her husband's death.

The Adagio from Clara Schumann's Piano Sonata in G minor is given a beautiful performance here by Isata Kanneh-Mason.

A new #listeneveryday post is published every weekday! Comment below or tweet @SimonRushby with your suggestions for future music.

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