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Clara Wieck Schumann

Clara Wieck Schumann (1819-1896)

Nationality: German
Born: September 13, 1819, Leipzig
Died: May 20, 1896, Frankfurt (age 76)
wikipedia

Piano Trio in g minor, Op. 17

(for violin, cello and piano)
I. Allegro moderato
II. Scherzo. Tempo di Menuetto
III. Andante
IV. Allegretto
Composed: 1846 (age 26-27)
Published: 1847 (age 27-28)
Duration: 30 minutes (approximately)
4 recordings, 16 videos
7:15
Beaux Arts Trio
I. Allegro moderato
5:00
Beaux Arts Trio
II. Scherzo. Tempo di Menuetto
4:46
Beaux Arts Trio
III. Andante
6:49
Beaux Arts Trio
IV. Allegretto
11:32
Atlantis Trio
I. Allegro moderato
4:52
Atlantis Trio
II. Scherzo. Tempo di Menuetto
5:11
Atlantis Trio
III. Andante
7:40
Atlantis Trio
IV. Allegretto
10:34
Gelius, Krstic, Haack
I. Allegro moderato
4:48
Gelius, Krstic, Haack
II. Scherzo. Tempo di Menuetto
5:25
Gelius, Krstic, Haack
III. Andante
7:46
Gelius, Krstic, Haack
IV. Allegretto
10:30
Storioni Trio
I. Allegro moderato
5:12
Storioni Trio
II. Scherzo. Tempo di Menuetto
4:43
Storioni Trio
III. Andante
7:41
Storioni Trio
IV. Allegretto

Clara Schumann, 1819-1896

Piano Trio in g minor, 1846

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?” – Clara Schumann, 1839

Clara SchumannWhile it was rare for a woman to become a significant composer in the European tradition of classical music before the 20th century, there are noteworthy examples. It is generally accepted that one of the very first composers distinguished from the anonymity of the early medieval period was in fact female: Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179), the “Sybil of the Rhine”, who left a significant legacy of over 80 pieces in a highly unique style. The Florentine Francesca Caccini (1587– c.1640) was an influential lutenist, singer, teacher and composer who became the first female to compose an opera. France produced at least two 19th century women composers of note, both of whom wrote chamber music: Louise Farrenc and Pauline Viardot. When Clara Schumann, at the tender age of 20, chastised herself for being a woman with the misguided impulse to compose, her contemporary, Fanny Mendelssohn, sister of Felix, had already written a piano quartet and a string quartet among other works. Whatever the context, sincerity or intent of Clara’s words at the time, she would continue to compose, ultimately producing well over thirty works including character pieces for piano, a concerto, several lieder, three Romances for violin and piano and, what is regarded as her greatest achievement, the Piano Trio in g minor, Op. 17, written in 1846 when she was twenty-seven. From a larger perspective of her multi-faceted musical life, it is clear that Clara Schumann was one of the most outstanding and influential female musicians of the 19th century if not the history of European classical music in general up to that point.

Clara SchumannSchumann was first and foremost a superb pianist, considered for many decades to be one of the finest in all of Europe, meriting the sobriquet “Queen of the Piano”. Known for her masterful technique and a sensitive, artistic gift for interpretation, Clara sustained a successful performance career for over sixty years and was among the first to introduce the works of Chopin and Robert Schumann while tempering the popular appetite for virtuosic romantic potboilers with the rediscovery of such classic composers as Bach, Scarlatti, Beethoven and Schubert. Schumann also frequently programmed her own piano compositions. Her skills as composer and pianist enabled her to prepare excellent arrangements, transcriptions and critical editions of works by Brahms, William Sterndale Bennett and Robert Schumann. Clara Schumann was a well-rounded professional musician of the highest caliber anchored in an outstanding education directed by her father that included piano, violin, theory, harmony, orchestration, counterpoint, fugue and composition with some of the finest teachers throughout Germany.

Clara Schumann was apparently also brilliant at multi-tasking. She was devoted in her marriage to Robert Schumann placing his professional and personal needs ahead of her own even when it meant sacrificing time to compose or practice. In addition to actively supporting and participating in Robert’s professional artistic life, Clara largely managed his business affairs while, through her own performance career, serving as the chief breadwinner for a family including eight children she bore and mothered. Robert Schumann’s life became increasingly difficult and ultimately tragic due to the onset of debilitating mental illness. That Clara managed all of this as well as sustaining her own artistic life as a performer, composer and scholar is utterly miraculous and a profound testament to her strength, character and will. Clara outlived her husband by forty years during which she stopped composing, resumed a fully active career as a concert pianist, cultivated a rich, platonic and artistic relationship with Brahms and maintained an active role in raising her grandchildren. She became a devoted champion of her husband’s music.

Clara SchumannThe Piano Trio in g minor is a finely crafted work that is easily recognizable for its midcentury romantic style with an affinity for the music of Robert Schumann as well as possibly Felix Mendelssohn. It was written when Clara was pregnant with her fourth child and unable to tour thereby finding a precious stretch of “idle” time to devote to composition. The first movement sonata is polished, sturdy and resolute within the cast of its minor mode. The two inner movements—a gentle scherzo and a tender andante—introduce a lyrical warmth occasionally tinged with pathos, especially in the central episode of the slow movement. The andante is a very moving, wistful romance that can’t fail to evoke the ghosts of Robert and Johannes. The finale demonstrates Schumann’s finest handling of dramatic form with prominent contrapuntal features. While the entire work is characterized by expressive moderation, it skillfully embraces the intimacy of the piano trio for an admirably balanced texture, an artful feat especially laudable for a brilliant concert pianist, a woman who followed her desire to compose after all.

© Kai Christiansen and Music at Kohl Mansion. All rights reserved.




From Edition Silvertrust:

Clara Schumann (1819-1896) was a gifted pianist whose lessons were from her father Friedrich Wieck, a prominent piano teacher. Robert Schumann (1810-1856) also studied with Wieck and having gotten to know Clara eventually married her. She enjoyed a considerable career as a concert pianist and teacher.

Clara began composing early and was encouraged by her husband to continue during her their marriage although after her husband's death she gave up composing and devoted herself to performing Robert's works for piano and was for many years considered his finest interpreter. Through Schumann, Clara met all of the leading musicians of the day and her music shows the influence of Mendelssohn, Liszt, Chopin and, of course, her husband.

Her Piano Trio is the only chamber music work she wrote and dates from 1847. It shows her considerable talent and one is left to wonder what else she might have achieved had she chosen to continue composing. The opening Allegro moderato, begins with a Mendelssohn theme of yearning. The second theme is a lovely, lyrical melody. The second movement, though it is marked scherzo and is also designated, Tempo di Menuetto, it really sounds like neither of these but rather an gentle, somewhat playful intermezzo. A slow movement, Andante, comes next. The atmosphere is highly romantic and exudes the aura of a very effective Song Without Words a la Mendelssohn. A thrusting, dramatic middle section interrupts the proceedings and makes for a fine contrast. The finale, Allegretto, begins quietly with a wayward, chromatic theme. The music is presented with great taste and elegance.

This is another fine mid romantic trio that it has never received the audience it deserves.

© Edition Silvertrust. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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