Janice Galloway reclaims a life and the biographical novelby Rebecca Abrams / July 20, 2002 / Leave a comment
Published in July 2002 issue of Prospect Magazine
The name of Clara Schumann is eclipsed by that of her more famous husband, Robert. She is known as the devoted and long-suffering wife who played his work, composed a little, bore him eight children in 12 years, and supported him through his mental illness.
What is less well known is that she was herself a respectable composer and one of the most brilliant pianists of her day. Her reputation far outweighed her husband’s in his lifetime. Chopin and Liszt came to hear her. She commanded the devotion of Mendelssohn and Brahms, both of whom championed her career when Robert himself would have turned her into an invisible little hausfrau, playing only for occasional guests.
Like Mozart, Clara Schumann was groomed for greatness by a domineering father. By the time she met her future husband at age 15 in 1834, she was a name on the musical circuit. Her father’s reluctance to let her throw herself away on an unstable, insolvent, composer seems not unreasonable. It was only after his death in 1856, and hers 40 years later, that their reputations reversed. Clara, convinced of Robert’s genius when their contemporaries found his originality merely eccentric, was proved right about her husband.