Clara Schumann’s Piano Concerto

Notes by TŌN trumpeter Diana Lopez

A Gifted Girl
As a gifted girl, Clara Wieck was trained by her father Friedrich Wieck as a pianist, thinking to embark on a career as a performer. She made her first public appearance when she was 11 years old. When Clara was a teenager, she was more independent in spirit and found herself attracted to Robert Schumann, who in 1830 became involved in the Wieck’s circle. They became engaged in secret in 1837. However, her father saw his daughter’s marriage as an obstacle to the magnificent solo career in which he had invested so much. Robert and Clara had to get a court order to be able to marry without her father’s consent. They finally married in 1840.

Clara and Robert
However, in order to focus on his own composition, sometimes Robert demanded limits on his wife’s practice. Fortunately, she was strong and found herself gradually able to overcome the difficulties of life with her husband—to cope with his depressive moods and the birth of eight children, all before the age of 35. During those years she did her best to continue her own career as a composer and writer. After Robert’s attempted suicide in 1854, he spent his final period in a private asylum. Clara, supported by friends, continued her concert career, as the only practical way of supporting her young family. Robert died in 1856. After his death, Clara started the promotion of his music on her own tours. In 1891 she gave her last concert in Frankfurt. In 1896, she suffered a stroke and died.

The Concerto
Clara Schumann’s compositions were limited in number, but they show magnificent skills based on the musical education she received. In 1833, when she was 14, she wrote the first sketch of her Piano Concerto. Robert completed the orchestration at the end of the year. This became the third movement of the concerto. During the summer of 1834 she completed and orchestrated the first and second movements of the piece, and a year later was preparing it for publication. The concerto shows the maturity that Clara had already developed as a composer and soloist. Clara never played the concerto again in public after she married.