Clara Schumann

When Clara Schumann moved into their first joint apartment in the Inselstraße 5 (today 18) in Leipzig with Robert Schumann on her 21st birthday on September 13th 1840, she could already look back on a brilliant career as a pianist, but also on a grueling court trial against her father, Friedrich Wieck, to secure legal permission to marry.

Having finally seen her wishes come true – the wedding had taken place the day before in the church of Schönefeld – Clara now faced new challenges. Robert had already written her in 1839: “The first year of our marriage you should forget the artist (sic), shouldn’t live for anything but yourself and your house and your husband…”

The famous marriage diary, a gift from Robert for her 21st birthday and in which the married couple took turns writing, not only presents a thorough account of the artist couple’s life together; it was also meant to express wishes, hopes, requests, in some cases also intercession and reconciliation.  Above all, the diary aimed to document Robert and Clara’s progress as artists. Thus, Clara does not shy away from complaining:  “My piano playing once again is pushed to the very back, which is always the case when Robert is composing. Not one little hour in the whole day can be found for me!”

Instead, as a newlywed woman, she had to learn to run a household, care for her husband, and tend a little garden. Very soon, motherly duties were added to these, as the first daughter Marie was born on September 1st 1841.  Additionally, many guests were welcomed at the Inselstraße – Robert praising Clara in her new role. Forgoing her usual piano playing, Clara was richly compensated by the intellectual stimulation:  Together with Robert she studied Bach’s fugal works, read Goethe and Shakespeare.  Clara, who often doubted her own talents in composing, was highly encouraged by Robert to create works of her own.  And so in addition to the Piano Pieces op. 14 and 15, Clara especially wrote Lieder, three of which Robert included in their joint collection “12 poems from Friedrich Rückert’s ‘Liebesfrühling’.”

Full of enthusiasm, Clara follows the development of the “Spring Symphony” and the chamber music works. She is elated by the Piano Quintet, Op. 44, which is dedicated to her and which she premieres during a “Musical Morning Matinee” hosted by the Schumann couple on January 8th 1843 in the Gewandhaus.

Starting in 1842, Clara returned to a fuller schedule of concertizing. She was afraid of being forgotten as a pianist and also wished to contribute to the family income.  An extended trip brought the married couple to Northern Germany.  Since Robert was very unhappy in his role as travel companion, Clara traveled on to Denmark by herself, where she completed a very successful tour.  In their marriage diaries, Robert writes her:  “Our separation has once again made me feel our uniquely difficult situation. Am I supposed to neglect my talent, in order to serve as your companion on the trip?  And you, should you leave your talent behind, just because I am bound to journal and piano?”

In the spring of 1844, the Schumanns undertook a four-month-long tour to Russia, during which Clara was greatly honored and which brought about a considerable financial success. Unfortunately, the tour also caused Robert much psychological and physical strain.  His inability to recuperate, even after returning from their journey, may explain their subsequent move to Dresden.

The marriage diary closes with a very descriptive report of their Russian tour, which Clara penned in June 1844, using Robert’s notes as a basis.  After a farewell matinee on December 8th 1844 in the Gewandhaus in Leipzig, Robert and Clara Schumann move into the Waisenhausstraße in Dresden with their two daughters, Marie and Elise.