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Archive for the ‘Archive series’ Category

Friedrich Burgmüller (1806-74)
Original piano works and fantasies

John Kersey, piano
RDR CD34

Audio sample:  By the beach from 6 Morceaux caracteristiques

Price: £7.99. Click the button below to purchase this CD securely online.

Total time: 77 mins 18 secs

1) Les Patineurs – Valse brillante from Le Prophète by Meyerbeer (8’02”)
2) Memoria speranza, valse expressive (6’27”)
3) Rondo for pianoforte or harp, op 1 (5’39”)
4) Chanson de Fortunio – valse de salon (5’05”)
5) Valse sentimentale du ballet Lady Henriette (1’40”)
6) Les Parisiennes, 3 Nouvelles Polkas no 1 -L’Enjouée (2’22”)
7) Les Parisiennes, 3 Nouvelles Polkas no 2 – La Coquette (2’45”)
8) Les Parisiennes, 3 Nouvelles Polkas no 3 – La Gracieuse (2’39”)
9) Rondino sur une Tyrolienne de Ch.M. de Weber, op 48 no 2 (3’51”)
10) Pharsalia, valse brillante, op 89 (3’17”)
11) Valse pastorale en forme de rondeau, op 24 (7’55”)
12) 6 Morceaux caracteristiques no 1 – On the Spanish Girls (2’03”)
13) 6 Morceaux caracteristiques no 2 –  Sea Picture (1’45”)
14) 6 Morceaux caracteristiques no 3 – Ave Maria(1’07”)
15) 6 Morceaux caracteristiques no 4 – Having Oranges (1’32”)
16) 6 Morceaux caracteristiques no 5 – Morning Sea (1’54”)
17) 6 Morceaux caracteristiques no 6 – By the beach (1’28”)
18) La Peri, ballet pantomime in 2 acts – valse favorite (4’45”)
19) La Peri, ballet pantomime in 2 acts – Le Rêve (4’32”)
20) Fantaisie sur le Père Gaillard d’Henri Reber, op 103 (7’06”)

This CD has been made possible by the kind support of Dr. Klaus Tischendorf of the Norbert Burgmüller-Society, Dusseldorf, to whom we are grateful for providing copies of the extremely rare scores used in this recording. Programme notes on the works included in the recording (in German) by Dr. Tischendorf are enclosed. Information on the Society and on Norbert and Friedrich Burgmüller may be accessed at www.burgmueller.de.

Friedrich Burgmüller was born in Regensburg, the elder brother of the highly original composer Norbert Burgmüller. He attempted unsuccessfully to succeed his father as music director in Dusseldorf and around 1826 moved to Basel and Mühlhausen, where he taught piano and cello. At this stage his compositions were ambitious in scale, including a lost cello concerto. However, around 1830, his style changed in response to the influence of Franz Hünten, and he began to write many simple piano pieces intended for children and amateurs. This recital concentrates on his more elaborate and virtuosic works intended for public performance.

From around 1834, Burgmüller settled in Paris where he acquired considerable fame and apparently was piano teacher to the children of King Louis-Philippe. Despite his success as a pedagogue, Burgmüller was extremely shy and retiring; the cover photograph (dating from c.1845) is the only one known of him.

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Julius von Beliczay (1835-93)
Original piano works and Hungarian national music by his contemporaries

John Kersey, piano
RDR CD33

Audio sample:  Andantino, op 26 no 2

Price: £7.99. Click the button below to purchase this CD securely online.

Total time: 68 mins 36 secs

1) Hermann Adolf Wollenhaupt (1827-65): Marche hongroise, op. 66 (4’04”)
2) Beliczay: from Stammbuchblätter, op. 31 (5’52”): 1. Träumerei; 2. Intermezzo
3) Beliczay: Gavotte op. 43 (3’56”)
4) Beliczay: Aquarellen, op. 26 (15’44”): 1. Moderato; 2. Andantino; 3. Allegretto; 4. Andante con moto; 5. Allegretto grazioso “Es lächelt der See”; 6. Vivace; 7. Allegretto vivace
5) Benjamin Egressy (1814-51) arr. Ferdinand Beyer (1803-63): Ungarische Volkshymne no. 61: Szosat (2’17”)
6) Beliczay: Nocturno, op. 24 (5’31”)
7) Beliczay: from Miniaturen, op. 67 (12’36”): 1. Allegretto; 2. Allegro; 3. Moderato; 4. Allegro scherzando; 5. Vivace; 6. Allegretto 8. Adagio rubato – Allegro; 9. Tempo di Valse; 10. Vivace; 11. Andante; 12. Moderato “Égböl szólok”
8) Beliczay: Novellette and Romanze, op. 2 (5’13”)
9) Beliczay: 8 Variations on a Hungarian theme, op. 23 (9’27”)
10) Ferenc Erkel (1810-93) arr. Ferdinand Beyer: Ungarische Volkshymne no. 60: Gott erhalt Ungarn (3’11”)

Julius, or Gyula in Hungarian, von Beliczay de Belic was one of the most important of Hungarian composers of the generation after Liszt. He was a composer in almost all the major forms of the day, including songs, chamber music, sacred music, opera, symphonic works (2 symphonies, written in 1888 and 1892 respectively) and a wide variety of piano music.

Beliczay was born in Révkomárom and studied piano there. During the 1850s he came into contact with Czerny and Nottebohm and was later a correspondent of Liszt, to whom he dedicated a cadenza.

Beliczay was an arch-Romantic and a man of profoundly sensitive disposition. His predominant style was within the Germanic heritage, with Schumann’s influence predominant in the works on this disc. Although there are nationalistic elements in his music, Beliczay was in general more drawn to the absolute than the programmatic, with a clear form obvious throughout his work and no piece outstaying its welcome.

When the Academy of Music opened at Budapest in 1875, Franz Liszt was its President and Ferenc Erkel its Director. Erkel’s famous national hymn “Gott erhalt Ungarn”, which is the Hungarian national anthem, concludes this disc. Beliczay was appointed Professor of the Academy and continued in this post until his death.

The other contributors to this disc, like Beliczay and Erkel, died prematurely, perhaps accounting for their posthumous neglect. Beyer was chiefly known as a pedagogue, and his exercises are still very popular in piano teaching in South America. Benjamin or Beny Egressy composed the “other” Hungarian national anthem, Szosat (often played at the end of ceremonies while Erkel’s anthem is played at the beginning), whose arrangement by Beyer is dramatic and effective. Wollenhaupt was a Leipzig-trained pianist who later pursued a career in New York with great success. His Hungarian March is full of pomp and drama.

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Theodor Kirchner (1823-1903)
Conversations with the Piano

John Kersey, piano
RDR CD32

Audio sample:  Tempo di Valse

Price: £7.99. Click the button below to purchase this CD securely online.

Total time: 68 mins 36 secs

1) Humoresken, op 48 (12’44”)
1. Allegro non troppo 2. Con moto 3. Allegretto 4. Allegretto 5. Allegretto grazioso 6. Allegretto

2) Romanze, op 45 no 6 (3’00”)

3) Plaudereien am Klavier, op 60 (47’56”)
1. Con moto 2. Allegretto 3. Allegro 4. Nicht zu schnell 5. Poco Allegretto 6. Poco Allegro 7. Mässiges Tempo 8. Con moto 9. Allegretto 10. Allegro 11. Allegretto 12. Poco Andante 13. Con troppo vivace 14. Zart nicht schnell 15. Poco moderato 16. Allegro ma non troppo 17. Comodo 18. Molto moderato 19. Poco animato 20. Comodo 21. Tempo di Gavotta 22. Con fuoco 23. Poco Allegro 24. Allegretto (Gavotten tempo) 25. Andantino

4) Tempo di Valse (2’51”)

Fürchtegott Theodor Kirchner, a pupil of Mendelssohn at the newly-founded Leipzig Conservatoire, composed over 1000 original works for piano, most of which are miniatures, but is best known for his arrangements today. He was a master of piano texture and his transcriptions show great craft.

Kirchner was recommended by Mendelssohn for the post of organist of Winterthur in Switzerland in 1843, and remained there for the next twenty years. The position gave him the opportunity to travel throughout Germany, and there he came into contact with Brahms and the Schumanns (he had first met Robert Schumann aged fourteen). He appears to have had a brief affair with Clara Schumann in the 1860s.

In 1862, Kirchner became director of the subscription concerts in Zurich, but remained there for only three years before returning to freelancing. He was appointed court pianist at Meiningen in 1872 and became director of the conservatoire in Würzburg the following year. However, in 1876, he moved to Leipzig for seven years, before going to Dresden, where he taught score-reading. The year 1890 was a climactic one for him, for he abandoned his wife and family and went to live in Hamburg, where he was looked after by a former pupil. Four years later he suffered the first of two strokes that left himparalysed, and began to go blind.

“In his character there is no stability” wrote Clara Schumann. Kirchner’s career suffered because of his addiction to gambling and an extravagant lifestyle that was beyond his means, and his musical friends had periodically to bail him out from financial ruin. In 1884 a group including Brahms, Grieg, Gade and von Bülow raised thirty thousand marks to help him pay off his gambling debts.

Here we encounter Kirchner as composer of original works, many written for accomplished women pianists. Kirchner’s works demand not merely a sound technique but a poetic imagination. The Plaudereien am Klavier constitute a cycle of wit and subtlety of invention and are as pleasing to play as to listen to. Elsewhere, his Romanze shows a creation of drama within the miniature that foreshadows Grieg. The Humoresken are a particularly attractive set, showing Kirchner’s mastery of harmony and sense of humour throughout.

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Theodor Kirchner (1823-1903)
Robert Schumann transcriptions

John Kersey, piano
RDR CD31

Audio sample:  Freundliches Erinnern

Price: £7.99. Click the button below to purchase this CD securely online.

Total time: 71 mins 32 secs

1) Kirchner: Ein Gedenkblatt: Serenade op 15 (3’47”)

2) Schumann trans. Kirchner: Romanzen und Balladen (40’22”). 1) Der Schatzgräber op 45 no 1 2) Frühlingsfahrt op 45 no 2 3) Abends am Strande op 45 no 3 4) Die Beiden Grenadiere op 49 no 1 5) Die Nonne op 49 no 3 6) Blondel’s Lied op 53 no 1 7) Loreley op 53 no 2 8) Der Arme Peter op 53 no 3 9) Die Soldatenbraut op 64 no 1 10) Das verlassene Mägdelein op 64 no 2 11) Tragödie op 64 no 3

3) Kirchner: In stillen Stunden, op 56 Heft IV (6’35”) 1) Klage 2) Freundliches Erinnern

4) Schumann trans. Kirchner: Bilder aus Osten: 6 Impromptus (20’46”) 1) Lebhaft 2) Nicht schnell und sehr gesangvoll zu spielen 3) Im Volkston 4) Nicht schnell 5) Lebhaft 6) Renig, andächtig

Fürchtegott Theodor Kirchner, a pupil of Mendelssohn at the newly-founded Leipzig Conservatoire, composed over 1000 original works for piano, most of which are miniatures, but is best known for his arrangements today. He was a master of piano texture and his transcriptions show great craft.

Kirchner was recommended by Mendelssohn for the post of organist of Winterthur in Switzerland in 1843, and remained there for the next twenty years. The position gave him the opportunity to travel throughout Germany, and there he came into contact with Brahms and the Schumanns (he had first met Robert Schumann aged fourteen). He appears to have had a brief affair with Clara Schumann in the 1860s.

In 1862, Kirchner became director of the subscription concerts in Zurich, but remained there for only three years before returning to freelancing. He was appointed court pianist at Meiningen in 1872 and became director of the conservatoire in Würzburg the following year. However, in 1876, he moved to Leipzig for seven years, before going to Dresden, where he taught score-reading. The year 1890 was a climactic one for him, for he abandoned his wife and family and went to live in Hamburg, where he was looked after by a former pupil. Four years later he suffered the first of two strokes that left himparalysed, and began to go blind.

“In his character there is no stability” wrote Clara Schumann. Kirchner’s career suffered because of his addiction to gambling and an extravagant lifestyle that was beyond his means, and his musical friends had periodically to bail him out from financial ruin. In 1884 a group including Brahms, Grieg, Gade and von Bülow raised thirty thousand marks to help him pay off his gambling debts.

On this disc, Kirchner is shown as far more than a dutiful transcriber, but as an artist with a complete understanding of Schumann’s most profound and intimate works. His transcriptions are pianistically inventive while being faithful to the emotional import of the score. One no more misses the voice than in Liszt’s more famous transcriptions of Schubert’s Lieder. Where Kirchner adds interpretative touches, they are discreet and entirely in keeping with the Romantic freedom that Schumann advocated in performance.

The transcription of Bilder aus Osten (Pictures from the East) is a particular delight; the original is for piano duet, but Kirchner’s version rearranges the work so that it is playable by a single pianist with no loss of effect. His original works are distinctive and full of emotion, particularly “Freundliches Errinern”, punningly dedicated to Robert Freund.

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Charles-Valentin Alkan (1813-88)
Unknown Piano Music of Alkan – Original works and transcriptions

John Kersey, piano
RDR CD30

Audio sample:  Handel transc. Alkan: Chœur des Prêtres de Dagon from ‘Samson’

Price: £7.99. Click the button below to purchase this CD securely online.

Total time: 75 mins 6 secs

1. Handel trans. Alkan: Chœur des Prêtres de Dagon from ‘Samson’ (3’08”)
2. Alkan: ‘Il était un p’tit homme’: Rondoletto, op. 3 (7’59”)
3. Weber trans. Alkan: Chœur-Barcarolle d’Obéron (Les filles de la mer) (3’48”)
4. Beethoven trans. Alkan: Chant d’Alliance (Wedding Song) (3’25”)
5. Alkan: Désir, petit fantaisie (4’50” )
6. Alkan: Variations quasi fantaisie sur une barcarolle napolitaine, op. 16 no. 6 (7’47”)
7. Grétry trans. Alkan: Marche et Chœur des Janissaires (4’06”)
8. Alkan: Nocturne no 3 in F sharp major, op. 57 (4’30”)
9. Marcello trans. Alkan: ‘I cieli immensi narranno’ from Psalm 18 (3’48”)
10. Gluck trans. Alkan: ‘Jamais dans ces beaux lieux’ from ‘Armide’ (5’55”)
11. Alkan: Variations on ‘La tremenda ultrice spada’ from Bellini’s ‘Montagues and Capulets’, op. 16 no. 5 (7’21”)
12. Alkan: Réconciliation: petit caprice mi-partie en forme de zorcico, ou Air de Danse Basque à cinq temps, op. 42 (8’20”)
13. Alkan: Variations on ‘Ah! segnata è la mia morte’ from Donizetti’s ‘Anna Bolena’, op. 16 no. 4 (6’06”)
14. Anon. trans. Alkan: Rigaudons des petits violons et hautbois de Louis XIV (2’48”)

This disc presents works by Alkan that are either receiving their first recording or which were first recorded on the erstwhile Romantic Discoveries disc CD8 and that are now presented in new recordings made in 2007.

To understand Alkan demands not merely an appreciation of his musical language but also of his other deep passion, theology. A Jewish scholar of both Old and New Testaments, Alkan devoted himself to translation and research during his mature years when not involved in musical composition and performance (he re-emerged on the concert platform late in life, after a long absence). His compositions are shot through with a deep humanity and an unflinching spiritual quality, tempered by an energetic sense of humour.

The choice of material for Alkan’s partitions is revealing of his tastes in sacred music, from Marcello to Handel’s ‘Samson’, as well as showing adventurous repertoire interests in an obscure Beethoven chorus and the Rigaudons of Louis XIV’s violin and oboe band. His early variation sets also show inspiration in the famous operas of the day, though the treatment is authentically Alkanesque in its vigorous pianism.

It goes without saying that Alkan’s music is highly challenging in both technical and musical terms. However, particularly in the partitions, Alkan’s aim is often to create an effect that is extremely difficult to execute but that sounds straightforward. The aim is always a fidelity to the chosen effect rather than that of display for its own ends. And as the pianos of Alkan’s day developed in compass and strength, so his writing adapted, with the high and low notes in ‘Samson’ prefiguring the approach of his admirer Busoni.

In his unknown original works, Alkan proves himself to be consistently intriguing. The Nocturne op. 57 is a fast piece, belying the genre, and surprisingly impassioned, with Alkan’s trademark harmonic novelties. In the Réconciliation op. 42, Alkan experiments with quintuple time, a subject which fascinated him and which was the subject of theoretical correspondence with Fétis as to whether there could be a ‘pure’ five-beat bar as opposed to one made up of groupings of two and three beats.

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Theodor Kirchner (1823-1903)
Robert Schumann: The Song Cycles transcribed for solo piano

John Kersey, piano
RDR CD29

Audio sample: Im wunderschönen Monat Mai, op. 48 no. 1

Price: £7.99. Click the button below to purchase this CD securely online.

Total time: 76 mins 56 secs

1) Frauenliebe und -Leben, op 42 (22’43”): Seit ich ihn gesehen; Er, der Herrlichste von Allen; Ich kann’s nicht fassen, nicht glauben; Du Ring an meinen Finger; Helft mir, ihr Schwestern; Süsser Freund, du blickest; An meinem Herzen, an meiner Brust; Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan.

2) Liederkreis, op 39 (23’27”): In der Fremde; Intermezzo; Waldesgespräch; Die Stille; Mondnacht; Schöne Fremde; Auf einer Burg; In der Fremde; Wehmuth; Zwielicht; Im Walde; Frühlingsnacht.

3) Dichterliebe, op 48 (30’36”): Im wunderschönen Monat Mai; Aus meinen Thränen spriessen; Die Rose, die Lilie; Wenn ich in deine Augen seh’; Ich will meine Seele tauchen; Im Rhein, im heil’gen Strome; Ich grolle nicht; Und wüssten’s die Blume; Das ist ein Flöten und Geigen; Hör’ ich das Liedchen klingen; Ein Jüngling liebt ein Mädchen; Am leuchtenden Sommermorgen; Ich hab’ im Traum geweinet; Allnächtlich im Traume; Aus alten Märchen winkt es; Die alten bösen Lieder.

Fürchtegott Theodor Kirchner, a pupil of Mendelssohn at the newly-founded Leipzig Conservatoire, composed over 1000 original works for piano, most of which are miniatures, but is best known for his arrangements today. He was a master of piano texture and his transcriptions show great craft.

Kirchner was recommended by Mendelssohn for the post of organist of Winterthur in Switzerland in 1843, and remained there for the next twenty years. The position gave him the opportunity to travel throughout Germany, and there he came into contact with Brahms and the Schumanns (he had first met Robert Schumann aged fourteen). He appears to have had a brief affair with Clara Schumann in the 1860s.

In 1862, Kirchner became director of the subscription concerts in Zurich, but remained there for only three years before returning to freelancing. He was appointed court pianist at Meiningen in 1872 and became director of the conservatoire in Würzburg the following year. However, in 1876, he moved to Leipzig for seven years, before going to Dresden, where he taught score-reading. The year 1890 was a climactic one for him, for he abandoned his wife and family and went to live in Hamburg, where he was looked after by a former pupil. Four years later he suffered the first of two strokes that left himparalysed, and began to go blind.

“In his character there is no stability” wrote Clara Schumann. Kirchner’s career suffered because of his addiction to gambling and an extravagant lifestyle that was beyond his means, and his musical friends had periodically to bail him out from financial ruin. In 1884 a group including Brahms, Grieg, Gade and von Bülow raised thirty thousand marks to help him pay off his gambling debts.

On this disc, Kirchner is shown as far more than a dutiful transcriber, but as an artist with a complete understanding of Schumann’s most profound and intimate works. His transcriptions are pianistically inventive while being faithful to the emotional import of the score. One no more misses the voice than in Liszt’s more famous transcriptions of Schubert’s Lieder. Where Kirchner adds interpretative touches, they are discreet and entirely in keeping with the Romantic freedom that Schumann advocated in performance.

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Clara Schumann (1819-96)
Complete transcriptions of Lieder by Robert Schumann

John Kersey, piano
RDR CD25

Audio sample: Berg’ und Burgen

Price: £7.99. Click the button below to purchase this CD securely online.

Total time: 67 mins 58 secs

1. Widmung (Devotion), op 25 no 1 (2’30”)
2. Freisinn (Forward), op 25 no 2 (1’27”)
3. Schöne Fremde (Far away in happy land), op 39 no 6 (1’43”)
4. Dein Angesicht (Thy lovely face), op 127 no 2 (1’40”)
5. Ich wand’re nicht (The joys of home), op 51 no 3 (1’05”)
6. Märzveilchen (March violets), op 40 no 1 (1’30”)
7. Berg’ und Burgen (Mountains and castles), op 24 no 7 (1’58”)
8. Mondnacht (Moonlight), op 39 no 5 (3’12”)
9. Er ist’s (The return of spring), op 79 no 19 (1’48”)
10. An den Sonnenschein (O sunny beam), op 36 no 4 (1’47”)
11. Mit Myrthen und Rosen (With myrtles and roses), op 24 no 9 (3’58”)
12. Die Stille (Emotion), op 39 no 4 (1’52”)
13. Geständniss (Ever thine), op 74 no 7 (2’25”)
14. Der Nussbaum (The walnut tree), op 25 no 3 (2’55”)
15. Rose, Meer und Sonne (Rose, sea and sun), op 37 no 9 (3’47”)
16. Philinen’s Lied (Philine’s song), op 98 no 7 (2’13”)
17. Volksliedchen (The hat of green), op 51 no 2 (1’27”)
18. Nichts Schöneres (Nothing fairer), op 36 no 3 (2’31”)
19. Du bist wie eine Blume (A floweret thou resemblest), op 25 no 24 (1’13”)
20. Er, der Herrlichste (The noblest), op 42 no 2 (3’06”)
21. Intermezzo (Dein Bildniss) (Thy image), op 39 no 2 (1’55”)
22. Dem rothen Röslein (A red, red rose), op 27 no 2 (1’24”)
23. Der Knabe mit dem Wunderhorn (The youth with the enchanted horn), op 30 no 1 (2’06”)
24. Die Lotosblume (The lotos flower), op 25 no 7 (1’43”)
25. Sehnsucht (Longing), op 51 no 1 (2’24”)
26. Sonntags am Rhein (A holiday on the Rhine), op 36 no 1 (2’54”)
27. In der Fremde (Far from home), op 39 no 1 (1’46”)
28. Frühlingsnacht (A spring night), op 39 no 12 (version 1) (1’32”)
29. Helft mir, ihr Schwestern (The bride’s toilet), op 42 no 5 (1’46”)
30. Ständchen (Serenade), op 36 no 2 (1’31”)
31. Frühlingsnacht (A spring night), op 39 no 12 (version 2) (1’35”)

Clara Schumann (from Wikipedia)

In March 1828, at the age of nine, the young Clara Wieck performed at the Leipzig home of Dr. Ernst Carus, director of a mental hospital at Colditz Castle, and met another gifted young pianist invited to the musical evening named Robert Schumann, nine years older than she. Schumann admired Wieck’s playing so much that he asked permission from his mother to discontinue his studies of the law, which had never interested him much, and take music lessons with Wieck’s father. While taking lessons, he took rooms in the Wieck household, staying about a year, until Wieck left on a concert tour to Paris. In 1830 at the age of eleven, Wieck gave her first solo concert, giving her debut at Leipzig’s famed Gewandhaus, followed by concerts in various cities and towns, including Weimar, where she performed for Goethe, who presented her with a medal with his portrait and a written note saying, “For the gifted artist Clara Wieck.”

Clara Wieck had a brilliant career as a virtuoso pianist from the age of thirteen. In her early years her repertoire, selected by her father, was showy and popular, in the style common to the time, with works by Kalkbrenner, Henselt, Thalberg, Henri Herz, Pixis, Czerny, and her own compositions. As she matured, however, becoming more established and planning her own programmes, she began to play works by the new Romantic composers, such as Chopin, Mendelssohn and, of course, Schumann, as well as the great, less showy, more “difficult” composers of the past, such as Scarlatti, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert.

In her nineteenth year, her father did everything in his power to prevent her from marrying Schumann, forcing the lovers to take him to court. During this period Robert Schumann, inspired by his love for Wieck, wrote many of his most famous Lieder. They eventually married on December 12 1840. Wieck-Schumann continued to perform and compose after the marriage even as she raised seven children, an eighth child having died in infancy. In the various tours on which she accompanied her husband, she extended her own reputation beyond Germany, and her efforts to promote his works gradually made his work accepted throughout Europe.

In 1853 Johannes Brahms, age twenty, met Clara and Robert in Leipzig and immediately impressed both of them with his talent. Brahms became a lifelong friend to Wieck-Schumann, sustaining her through the illness of Robert, asking for her advice about new compositions, even caring for her young children while she went on tour. It is clear that they developed a deep and life-long love for each other, although there is no indication that it was ever consummated physically.

Wieck-Schumann’s reputation brought her into contact with the leading musicians of the day, including Mendelssohn, Chopin and Liszt. She also met violinist Joseph Joachim who became one of her frequent performance partners. “One of the most soulful and famous pianists of the day,” said Edvard Grieg.

Clara Wieck-Schumann often took charge of the finances and general household affairs due to Robert’s mental instability. Part of her responsibility included making money, which she did by giving concerts, although she continued to play throughout her life not only for the income, but because she was a concert artist by training and by nature. Robert, while admiring her talent, wanted a traditional wife to bear children and make a happy home, which in his eyes and the eyes of society were in direct conflict with the life of a performer. Furthermore, while she loved touring, Robert hated it.

After Robert’s death (July 29, 1856), Wieck-Schumann devoted herself principally to the interpretation of his works. But when she first visited England in 1856, the critics received Robert’s music with a chorus of disapproval. She returned to London in 1865 and continued her visits annually, with the exception of four seasons, until 1882. She also appeared there each year from 1885 to 1888. In 1878 she was appointed teacher of the piano at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt am Main, a post she held until 1892, and in which she contributed greatly to the improvement of modern piano playing technique.

Wieck-Schumann played her last public concert in Frankfurt in March 1891. Five years later, on March 26, 1896, she suffered a stroke, dying on May 20, at age 77. She is buried at Bonn’s Alter Friedhof (Old Cemetery) with her husband.

Clara Schumann was a woman of great character. She was the main breadwinner for her family through giving concerts and teaching, and she did most of the work of organizing her own concert tours. She refused to accept charity when a group of musicians offered to put on a benefit concert for her. In addition to raising her own large family, when one of her children became incapacitated, she took on responsibility for raising her grandchildren. During a time of revolution in Dresden, she famously walked into the city through the front lines, defying a pack of armed men who confronted her, rescued her children, then walked back out of the city through the dangerous areas again.

As part of the broad musical education given her by her father, Clara Wieck learned to compose, and from childhood to middle age she produced a good body of work. At age fourteen she wrote her first piano concerto, with some help from Robert Schumann, and performed it at age sixteen at the Leipzig Gewandhaus with Mendelssohn conducting.

As she grew older, however, she lost confidence in herself as a composer, writing, “I once believed that I possessed creative talent, but I have given up this idea; a woman must not desire to compose — there has never yet been one able to do it. Should I expect to be the one?” In fact, Wieck-Schumann composed nothing after the age of thirty-six.

Today her compositions are increasingly performed and recorded. Her works include songs, piano pieces, a piano concerto, a piano trio, choral pieces, and three Romances for violin and piano. Inspired by her husband’s birthday, the three Romances were composed in 1853 and dedicated to Joseph Joachim who performed them for George V of Hanover. He declared them a “marvellous, heavenly pleasure.”

“Clara has composed a series of small pieces, which show a musical and tender ingenuity such as she has never attained before. But 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.”
—Robert Schumann in the joint diary of Robert and Clara Schumann.

“Composing gives me great pleasure…there is nothing that surpasses the joy of creation, if only because through it one wins hours of self-forgetfulness, when one lives in a world of sound.”
—Clara Schumann.

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