The German romantic composer Clara Wieck Schumann (l8l9-l896) was one of the most famous pianists of her time, one of the great stars of 19th-century musical Europe. She premiered new works by Frederic Chopin, Johannes Brahms, and her husband Robert Schumann. While she composed prolifically from the age of nine, her spectacular performing career and the responsibility of supporting seven children after her husband's early death limited her output in her later years. Nonetheless, her musical output was 66 pieces.
Clara Josephine Wieck was born in Leipzig, Germany, on September 13, 1819. Her father was a piano store owner and a highly esteemed piano teacher. Her mother, a daughter and granddaughter of a musical family, was a talented pianist and soprano; she helped her husband in the store and taught the advanced piano students. Whenever Marianne Wieck performed, Friedrich Wieck's reputation as a music teacher improved and sales increased in the piano store.
Marianne ran a household, maintained a concert career and bore her husband five children in seven years. But Clara and her brothers received very little affection from their parents.
Clara did not begin to speak until she was 4 years old, and her parents thought that she might be deaf. When Clara was 4, her mother left her father. She took her daughter Clara and her infant son with her. A few days before Clara's fifth birthday, Wieck took custody of Clara as was his right under Saxon law at that time, and the Wiecks were divorced when Clara was 5. Clara's mother Marianne remarried soon after the divorce, and her father remarried when Clara was 9. From the time of her parents' divorce the young Clara rarely saw her mother.
After her parents' separation, her father began teaching 5-year-old Clara piano pieces by ear, initially...