The love story between Clara and Robert Schumann is considered to be one of the most beautiful and passionate love stories in the history of classical music. It might seem like a typical 19thcentury novel: The lovers who had to use others in order to smuggle their own love letters; the brief meetings for a minute or two, away from the public’s eye; the ultimate villainFriedrich Wieck, Clara’s father, a greedy piano pedagogue who would pursue his daughter’s career at any cost; and music as the divine element, guiding the lovers and finally delivering them from darkness to the light of personal and musical unity.
This ultimate unity has become the source of the couple’s musical and artistic inspiration. The soul of young Clara Wieck echoed Robert Schumann’s strong artistic principles: his spite towards the “Biedermeier” style – the empty virtuosity for the sake of virtuosity, his love for poetry and writings, and his admiration for the uprising musical geniuses of his time,such as Mendelssohn and Chopin. Later on, their love was an essential element in their work, especially in Robert’s compositions and publications, as can be shown in his critical writings: R. Schumann’s way of passing his artistic philosophy to a greater public was through a magazine called “Neue Zeitschrift für Musik” (The New Journal of Music). He used to sign his essays with his well-known pseudonyms: Uesebius, the intellectual scientist,and Florestan, the fearless warrior who will always stand up for his beliefs. These two figures joined together were the embodiment of the ultimate unity, a third figure called Meister Raro (an abbreviation of ClaRa and Robert).
The two musical lovers had a prolific collaboration: Robert was a musical genius and one of the greatest composers of the 19thcentury,and Clara was the leading female pianist of her time and a role model for many others to come. She became the ultimate interpreter of her husband’s works. Many of her interpretations were – in the free manner of the romantic period – musical adjustments of his piano works that were warmly accepted by interpreters from then on. She had a decent talent for composition and was clearly influenced by her husband’s musical language. By listening to her piano pieces, the Romance op.11 No.2and the second Scherzoop.14, Schumann lovers will surely notice certain musical elements coming from Robert’s Davidsbundlertanze op.6 and Fantasiestuckeop.12. However, since Clara was a more skillful virtuso than her husband at the time, her compositions were often closer to Liszt than Robert Schumann.
In Clara’s Three Romancesop.22, (originally for violin and piano) Robert remains the main stylistic influence – the flamboyant swirling piano part of the third romance is a typical Robert favorite; but unlike her husband, Clara’s harmonic language is more daring, chromatic and even dissonant at times.
Robert Schumann’s Adagio and Allegro op.70 was originally written for horn and piano. The horn in this piece was treated in a traditional manner – it plays long, warm melodic lines in the Adagio and hunt-like musical gestures in the Allegro. The accompanying piano lets the solo instrument take the lead and decorates its part with tiny melodic fragments.
Schumann’s Piano Quintetop. 44 was, allegedly, the reason for Clara’s detestation for Liszt. Clara claimed that Liszt had forced Robert to invite a string quartet in the middle of the night,in order to perform the piece especially for him. Liszt had listened with a rather indifferent manner and then, according to Clara, dismissed the piece as a “Kapellmeister work”. The four movements of the quintet are written in the same keys of the four movements of Beethoven’s Eroicaand express the same idea of struggle and victory. But as opposed to Beethoven’s titanic message that is being carried out by a large orchestra, Schumann’s message is subtler and seems like a philosophic discussion between friends.