Clara Schumann: Google doodle celebrates life of piano prodigy

From The Guardian:

Her husband’s music is celebrated the world over, his name is always on lists of our greatest composers. But what about the other Schumann, also a composer and musician of huge talent? Today’s Google Doodle shines a light on Clara Schumann, the – some might say – long-suffering wife of Robert Schumann, the German composer who died in a psychiatric institution in 1856.

Clara Wieck was a piano prodigy at a young age, making her public debut at 11, and, acclaimed across Europe, she was perhaps the 19th century’s foremost concert pianist. Her tyrannical father was her teacher; another of his pupils was Robert Schumann, nine years Clara’s senior. The two fell in love, and, despite her father’s disapproval (he took them to court to prevent the match), they married the day before Clara’s 21st birthday.

In the early years of her adult life she also composed. There was a piano concerto written when she was 14, and performed earlier this year at London’s Royal Festival Hall, there were songs, and many solo piano pieces that Clara herself would perform as part of her concert programmes.

But marriage to Robert was hardly the idyll for which the young lovers had been hoping, as Schumann evangelist Steven Isserlis writes. Initially Clara was Schumann’s muse and musical voice, using her fame as a performer to propagate her husband’s works, but tensions surfaced as Schumann’s mental health disintegrated. The couple had eight children, and Clara was forced to support the family with concert touring. It’s no surprise that she composed little after her mid 30s. “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,” she said. But to produce creative works, as Virigina Woolf famously stated, a woman needed “money and a room of her own”. There can’t have been much private space or time for Clara. As Schumann himself observed: “To have children, and a husband who is always living in the realm of imagination, does not go together with composing.”